D2 Preview: Downriver Powers Rising to Lead Another Finals Charge

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 4, 2022

A return of full Downriver League power will make Saturday morning’s Competitive Cheer Final feel much more like what we’re used to from Division 2.

Allen Park is back at Grand Rapids’ Delta Plex seeking a third-consecutive championship, and Gibraltar Carlson is returning after a year away and still sits second on the all-time championships list with 11. Southgate Anderson is a three-time Finals champ, and together they finished first-third in the league and their Regional over these last many weeks.

Division 2 competition begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $10 and may be bought at the Delta Plex, and all four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable with a subscription. More information, including the spectator seating chart, is posted at MHSAA.com.

Below is a look at all eight finalists: 

ALLEN PARK
League finish: First in Downriver League
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 17th season
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2021), four runner-up finishes.
Top score: 794.16.
Team composition: 28 total (nine seniors, 11 juniors, six sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: The Jaguars are competing for a third-straight Division 2 title and seventh-straight top-two Finals finish. They are again undefeated heading into Finals weekend, having broken 790 points in five of their last six competitions. Many of the team’s leaders have championship experience and multiple all-state honors – seniors Adreanna Carone and Cassidy Kuhn and junior Emma Buffa are returning first-team selections from 2021, while senior Cassidy Reardon and junior Kristine Beste made the second team last season and juniors Madisyn Setser and Emma Williams earned honorable mentions.

CEDAR SPRINGS
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold
Coach: Katy Hradsky, first season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 755.08.
Team composition: 17 total (nine seniors, one junior, six sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: Cedar Springs is making its fourth-straight trip to the Finals and improved from seventh in 2020 to sixth last season. This will be the first appearance with Hradsky as head coach, but she was a major part of the program as the junior varsity coach the previous eight seasons after serving as co-head coach at Sparta from 2011-13. Cedar Springs posted its second-highest score, 753.58, to finish Regional runner-up. Senior Abbey Salisbury made the all-state second team last season.

DEARBORN DIVINE CHILD
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Bishop
Co-coaches: Amber Genevich, 19th season; Shelley Popiel, fifth season
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2011-14.
Top score: 782.86
Team composition: 20 total (three seniors, three juniors, seven sophomores, seven freshmen)
Outlook: Divine Child is returning to the Finals after two seasons away, riding a wave of strong scores with four straight of 761 or better and three of those reaching at least 773. Senior Makenna Yost and juniors Reese Eberth both earned all-Regional recognition last season.

DEWITT
League finish: Third in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Candace Heskitt, 14th season
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up in 2020, 2015 and 2007.
Top score: 765.86 at Regional.
Team composition: 25 total (five seniors, four juniors, five sophomores, 11 freshmen).
Outlook: The Panthers have moved up from sixth in 2019 to third in 2020 to runner-up last season and enter this weekend coming off their first competition championship of this season. DeWitt is trending upward with its four highest scores coming in its four most recent events. Senior Anneliese Phillips made the all-state second team last season, and senior Hilary Ballard earned honorable mention.

GIBRALTAR CARLSON
League finish:
 Second in Downriver League
Coach: Alyssa Tocco, first season
Championship history: 11 MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), six runner-up finishes.
Top score: 790.18 at District
Team composition: 23 total (three seniors, nine juniors, three sophomores, eighth freshmen).
Outlook:  Carlson is back at the Finals having finished first or second in Division 2 every season from 2008-20. Tocco is a past three-time Division 2 runner-up as an athlete on Allen Park’s team and a national runner-up collegiately, and served as an assistant at Plymouth the last five seasons before taking over the Marauders. They’ve finished first or second at all of their competitions this winter. The team didn’t compete during the 2021 postseason, but senior Destiny Rogers earned an all-state honorable mention in 2020 as a sophomore on that Finals runner-up team.

GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN
League finish: First in O-K White
Coach: Carly Sienkiewicz, fifth season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 757.04
Team composition: 18 total (two seniors, nine juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern is returning to the Finals for the first time since 1998 after winning its second-straight league title and reaching Regionals for the second time in three seasons. The Huskies’ top four scores have come over their four most recent competitions, including in winning the District title with a 756.82 two weeks ago. Junior Julie Fiser earned all-District recognition last season as FHN just missed advancing.

MUSKEGON REETHS-PUFFER
League finish: Second in O-K Green
Coach: Lisabeth Smith, first season
Championship history: Seeking first top-two Finals finish.
Top score: 750.64 at Regional
Team composition: 23 total (four seniors, nine juniors, three sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: Reeths-Puffer is returning to the Finals for the first time since 2018, after winning its District and posting its top score in finishing third at the Regional. Smith is a past Reeths-Puffers cheer athlete and coached in the program immediately after graduation, later taking over the Muskegon High program before taking a few years off and returning to coach the Rockets this winter. Reeths-Puffer just missed the Finals last season, but seniors Lillyanna Schoonbeck and Summer Curtis, junior Makenna Anthony and sophomore Kendall Eek all earned all-Regional recognition.

SOUTHGATE ANDERSON
League finish: Third in Downriver League.
Coach: Colette Norscia, 19th season
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Top score: 782.44 at District.
Team composition: 22 total (four seniors, 10 juniors, three sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: Anderson improved from sixth in 2020 to a close fifth last season, and its top score this season is more than six points higher than heading into last year’s Finals. The Titans have surpassed 771 three times and 761 in seven competitions. Senior Savannah Thomas and juniors Bella Plonka and Alexis Morris earned all-Regional recognition last season.

PHOTO Allen Park competes during last year’s Round 1 at Breslin Center. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Title IX at 50: Paige Miller's Story

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

August 16, 2022

The Paw Paw competitive cheer team has emerged as one of the state’s powerhouses especially over the last four years – and few people have had a better seat for the program’s rise than Paige Miller. The recently-graduated senior is the daughter of 13-year coach Stefanie Miller, and Paige made the Division 3 all-state first team this past winter for the third time while playing a significant role in the team posting its best Finals finishes in program history for the second-straight season.

Paw Paw finished second at the Division 3 Final in March for the second season in a row, this time just a point behind champion Richmond after coming within nine-tenths of a point of catching the Blue Devils in 2021. Miller will continue to cheer at Trine University, where she will study psychology and also compete in track & field after running on her team’s 400 and 800 relays and high jumping this past spring.

What the opportunity to compete as a female athlete means to Paige Miller


"I think it's provided me with a lot of essential skills that extend beyond the aspect of sports. It's provided me with the ability to talk and interact with others in a productive way. It allows me to push myself and others into a positive direction and also to know how to work as a team and collaborate effectively. Without sports, I don't know if I would've learned those lessons as deeply as I have.

“I’ve had some experiences, with my cheer teams, we've done tumble clinics or clinics to build up the younger program. And I'll be out at like the grocery store, and one of the little girls from the tumble clinic with come up and (say), ‘You're a Paw Paw cheerleader. I love everything you guys do. You're so cool. I want to be you guys when I grow up.’ And it's an amazing feeling to be someone that somebody looks up to.”

Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.

Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights

Aug. 9: Gracie Olsen's Story - Read
Aug. 2:
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July 26:
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July 19:
Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12:
Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5:
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June 28:
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June 23: 
We Celebrate Our Past, We Look Forward to Our Future - Read
June 21: Assistant Directors Have Been Difference Makers - Read
June 14: 
Girls Lacrosse Finals Officials Set Empowering Example - Read
June 7: 
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May 31: 
Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read

May 24: Scane, Whiteside Alone on 400-Goal, 500-Point Girls Lacrosse Lists - Read
May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
May 10: 
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May 3: 
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April 26: 
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April 19: 
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April 12: 
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April 5: 
Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: 
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March 22: 
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March 15: 
Binder Among Voices Telling Our Story on MHSAA Network - Read
March 8: 
28 Years, Thousands of Cheers - Read
March 1: 
Kearsley Rolls On Among Girls Bowling's Early Successes - Read
Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: 
Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: 
Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: 
Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: 
Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: 
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Oct. 5: 
Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: 
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Sept. 14: 
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Sept. 7: 
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Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read