D1 Preview: New Champion to Rise

March 5, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

For the first time since 2011, there will be a new MHSAA Division 1 competitive cheer champion.

And five of eight teams competing Friday are seeking the first MHSAA title in their programs’ histories.

Following are glances at all eight Division 1 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 6 p.m. Previews for Divisions 2, 3 and 4 will be published Friday morning and early afternoon. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association (West, Lakes and overall).
Co-coaches: Helena Hunt and Christina Swansey, fourth seasons.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 786.70.
Team composition: 26 total (11 seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Grand Blanc is making its first trip to the MHSAA Finals and after dominating a strong KLAA. The Bobcats have posted some of the best scores in the state – their top overall score is third-best in Division 1 this season, while their best of 237.4 in Round 1 and 232.1 in Round 2 also both rank third in the division. Senior Madison Drye received an all-region honorable mention last season. Hunt led Waterford Mott to a Michigan Cheer Coaches Association championship in 2002.

Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.
Coach: Julie Smith-Boyd, 34th season.
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), eight runner-up finishes.
Top score: 789.22 at District.
Team composition: 30 total (12 seniors, seven juniors, nine sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: The Bulldogs fell only 2.42 points shy of earning last season’s championship and were tied for first after Round 1. Their top overall score is the second highest in Division 1 this season – they’ve gone over 780 points three times – and they also rank second in Round 3 with a best of 320.9. Seniors Trisha Merriman and Sam Salliotte earned all-state first-team honors last season, while senior Jasmine Martinez made the second team and senior Katie Roberts and junior Kelsey Russell earned honorable mentions.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Third in KLAA Lakes West.
Coach: Lizzie Nash, first season.
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2013.
Top score: 781.48 at the District.
Team composition: 22 total (10 seniors, five juniors, seven sophomores).
Outlook: Nash previously was an assistant at Northville and inherited a team that has made three straight MHSAA Finals and finished sixth a year ago. The District score was the eighth-highest overall in Division 1 this season and resulted in a championship; Hartland also finished ahead of league champ Grand Blanc at their Regional. Seniors Jenna Seychel and Shelby Snider both received all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: Second in Oakland Activities Association Red.
Coach: Nicole Hills, second season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 782.6 at the Regional.
Team composition: 24 total (seven seniors, eight juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: Hills led Lake Orion to a fourth-place finish in her first season as head coach and District and Regional titles heading into this weekend. The Dragons’ top Round 2 (229.9) and Round 3 (318.1) scores both rank among the top 10 in Division 1 this winter.  Senior Julia Waelchli and junior Morgan Duerden were the team’s all-state first-teamers last season, and senior Sara Blodgett earned an honorable mention.

Rank: Unranked.
League finish: First in KLAA Central and Kensington.
Coach: Blair Koon, fifth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 784.54 at the District.
Team composition: 32 total (11 seniors, nine juniors, six sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Stevenson has won four straight KLAA division titles and an overall conference championship under Koon, who moved up to varsity after coaching both the freshman and then junior varsity teams – and this weekend she will lead the Spartans into the MHSAA Finals for the first time. They are scoring their best when it counts – they’ve gone over 784 both weekends of the postseason to finish runner-up both times to No. 2-ranked Rochester. All three of Stevenson's round scores rank among the top eight for those rounds in Division 1, with the best Round 1 of 237.8 second on that list. Senior Alissa Remijan and junior Kristina Smith earned all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Third in OAA Red.
Coach: Susan Wood, 34th season.
Championship history: Twelve MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Top score: 792.16 in the District.
Team composition: 28 total (15 seniors, 10 juniors, three sophomores).
Outlook: Despite a third-place league finish, this could be the season the Falcons regain the MHSAA title to add to District and Regional championships won the last two weekends. Rochester has posted the highest scores in all three rounds and overall this season and scored more than 780 points overall five times including in its last three events. Senior Emily Telesco earned an all-region honorable mention in 2014.

No. 1.
League finish: First in OAA Red.
Coach: Tricia Williams, 12th season.
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2010.
Top score: 782.06.
Team composition: 26 total (10 seniors, seven juniors, eight sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Stoney Creek has a claim to winning the most competitive league in the state this season, with two other teams from the OAA Red also in the Division 1 Final. The Cougars finished third at both their District and Regional, but scored more than 781 points at both and should improve mightily on last season’s eighth-place finish. Seniors Payton Dimoff and Sarah Koch and junior Asha Cook all earned all-region first-team honors last winter.

Rank: No. 5
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Coach: Brianna Verdoodt, 10th season.
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up in 2011.
Top score: 775.66 in the District.
Team composition: 41 overall (four seniors, 12 juniors, 11 sophomores, 14 freshmen)
Outlook: After a season away, Verdoodt is back as coach – and Stevenson is back at the Finals for the third time in four seasons after missing in 2014. The Titans are especially strong in Round 3 – their best score of 318.2 ranks eighth in Division 1 this season – and their average overall score of 766.312 is fifth. Senior Sophia Gojcaj and junior Kenzi Denoff earned all-district second-team honors last season. 

PHOTO: Rochester Hills Stoney Creek performs a routine during last season's Division 1 Final at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex.