D2 Preview: Downriver Powers Set Tone

March 1, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Gibraltar Carlson and Allen Park have combined to win the last 11 Division 2 competitive cheer championships and also earn five of the runner-up places during that time.

The Downriver League rivals will be favorites again at Saturday’s Division 2 Finals at the Grand Rapids Delta Plex. But a number of competitors have been pushing to break into the top spots – and another will compete at this level for the first time this weekend.

Below are glances at all eight teams competing Saturday. Division 2 begins at 10 a.m. and will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis. Click here for the Finals draws and other important information.

League finish: First in Downriver League
Coach: Julie Goodwin, 14th season
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2017 and 2010, three runner-up finishes.
Top score: 794.46 at the Regional.
Team composition: 26 total (seven seniors, three juniors, 11 sophomores, five freshmen)
Outlook: Allen Park has finished first or second the last three seasons, coming in runner-up a year ago. The Jaguars finished ahead of rival Gibraltar Carlson in the league and at Regional, by nine tenths of a point at the latter, and they’ve posted the top scores in Division 2 in Round 2 (233.1), Round 3 (322.7) and total. In fact, the top total score above and Allen Park’s average of 784.4 are the highest in the state, regardless of division. Seniors Lyric Spears and Rylie Davis made the all-state first team last season, while senior Angela Sammut made the second and senior Sydney Bain and junior Jessika Palmarchuk earned honorable mentions.  

League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: Anne Olszewski, fifth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 778.5 at the District.
Team composition: 19 total (four seniors, eight juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: Cedar Springs is returning to the Finals for the first time since 2011 after posting two of its top three total scores during the postseason. The Red Hawks’ average total score of 748.8 ranks sixth in Division 2. Seniors Gabby Endres, Elayna Male and Emily Pierson all earned all-Regional honors last season.

League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League
Coach: Shelley Popiel, second season
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2014).

Top score: 781.36 at the Regional.
Team composition: 25 total (six seniors, 10 juniors, five sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: Divine Child finished seventh last season and looks like a strong possibility to take a few steps up with the third-highest average total score in Division 2 at 766.8. The Round 1 (236.3) and Round 3 (319.2) top scores also rank among the top four in the division. Senior Lauren Elliott and juniors Emily LaFeve and Natalie Santostasi all earned all-Regional honors last season.

League finish: Tied for first in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Candace Heskitt, 11th season
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2015 and 2007.

Top score: 778.64 at the District.
Team composition: 25 total (three seniors, seven juniors, eight sophomores, five freshmen)
Outlook: The Panthers returned to the Finals last season and finished sixth, and enter this weekend coming off an eighth straight league championship and first District and Regional titles since finishing Finals runner-up in 2015. DeWitt surges in Round 3, with its top score of 319.6 ranking third in Division 2. Sophomores Aubrey McKinley and Gabby Cooney both earned all-Regional recognition in 2018.

League finish: Second in Downriver League
Coach: Ann Hajec, first season
Championship history: 10 MHSAA titles (most recent 2018), five runner-up finishes.

Top score: 793.56
Team composition: 25 total (three seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores, seven freshmen)
Outlook: Carlson has won a combined seven Division 2 titles under a combined three coaches this decade, and will attempt to make it eight with four leaders as 2011-13 all-stater Hajec brings her first team to the Delta Plex. The Marauders have continued to thrive with the top Round 1 (239.2) score in the division and second-highest in Round 2 (233), Round 3 (321.4) and total. Senior Summer Bojarski and sophomore Maguire Lindisch made the all-state first team last season, while senior Kennedy Stewart, junior Sarah Klim and sophomore Alex Stewart made the second team and juniors Rylee Demers and Elliah Shank earned honorable mentions.

League finish: Second in O-K Black
Coach: Bethany Schutter, first season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.

Top score: 770.54 at the District.
Team composition: 24 total (seven seniors, six juniors, seven sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: Kenowa Hills moved up from fifth in 2017 to third last season, its second third place in three years. It’s riding some momentum into this weekend with two wins and its top two scores over the last four events. Seniors Taylor Buskard and Braeanna Mull made the all-state second team last season, and junior Kaylee Lenartz earned honorable mention.

League finish: First in O-K Black
Coach: Amanda Heethuis, 12th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 781.32
Team composition: 28 total (six seniors, five juniors, eight sophomores, nine freshmen)
Outlook: Mona Shores has finished third and fourth, respectively, at the last two Finals, and should be the mix again with its average score of 765.4 ranking fourth in Division 2 along with its top scores in Round 1 (tied – 235.4) and Round 2 (230.2). Junior Logan Potts earned all-state honorable mention last season.

League finish: First in Lakes Valley Conference
Co-coaches: Amber Stocks and Michelle Frey, ninth seasons
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 784.72 at the Regional.
Team composition: 24 total (five seniors, seven juniors, eight sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: Western will be competing at the MHSAA Finals for the first time after posting its top two total scores of the season at the District and Regional. The Warriors could make a splash – their average total score this season (757.5) ranks fifth in Division 2, while the Regional score was the third-highest this winter and their top scores for all three rounds also rank among the top five. Senior Madison Homer and junior Makayla Sheppy earned all-District second-team honors last season in Division 1.

PHOTO: Allen Park competes during the regular season; the Jaguars are among favorites again in Division 2. (Photo courtesy of the Allen Park competitive cheer program.)