D3 Preview: Numbers Tilt To Favorites

March 3, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Richmond and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep have combined to win the last five Division 3 competitive cheer championships.

With average overall scores this winter that best the rest of Saturday’s field by 25 points, it’s expected that trend will continue in this season’s final competition – but of course, six more contenders will have something to yell about that starting when Round 1 begins at 6 p.m. at Grand Rapids’ DeltaPlex.

Following are glances at all eight Division 3 teams competing. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis.

Rank: No. 8.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue.
Coach: Kathy Felty, 27th season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2011 and 2009, three runner-up finishes. 
Top score: 750.54.
Team composition: 21 overall (eight seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: After placing fifth last season without a senior on the team, Comstock Park returns with more experience and championships in the league, District and Regional. The Panthers average the fourth highest score in Division 3 and could return to the top four at the Final for the fourth time in five seasons. Senior Vivian Bjork made the all-state first team last season, while senior Alyssa Geraghty and junior Haleigh Brown made the second team and seniors Heather and Holly Damuth earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 10.
League finish: Second in Huron League.
Coach: Tanya Vaughn, third season.
Championship history: Class C-D champion 1998, two runner-up finishes.
Top score: 758.14 at the Regional.
Team composition: 20 total (nine seniors, two juniors, five sophomores, four freshmen). 
Outlook: After reaching the Regional all three seasons under Vaughn, Flat Rock took the next step this winter with a third-place finish to qualify for Saturday. It was one of only two third places all season; the Rams finished first or second at the rest of their events. Senior MaKenzie Ervin made the all-region second team last season and junior Maya Schroeder earned an honorable mention.

Rank: Honorable mention.
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association.
Coach: Jennifer Laskey, 11th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 744.08.
Team composition: 18 total (four seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen).
Outlook: After a year away, Tri-County will compete in its third Final in four seasons and has made the Regionals every season beginning with 2011-12. The fourth place at the Regional this time was the team’s only finish lower than third this winter. Senior Mariah Duncan earned an all-region honorable mention last season.

Rank: No. 6.
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference.
Coach: Kim Martin, 26th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 755.12.
Team composition: 21 total (nine seniors, four juniors, six sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Lakewood improved to sixth last season from eighth in 2015 and won all of its events before notching third places at its District and Regional. Its top Round 1 (233.4) and Round 3 (310.5) scores both rank among the top five in Division 3 this season. Senior Kendall Rooks made the all-region second team in 2016, and senior Riley Eggers earned an honorable mention.

Rank: No. 7.
League finish: First in Huron League.
Coach: Sara Griffin, ninth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 758.1 at the District. 
Team composition: 19 total (three seniors, seven juniors, three sophomores, six freshmen).
Outlook: After moving up to fourth at last season’s Division 3 Final, Jefferson returns with the third highest average overall score in the division and the third-highest Round 2 score (222.7) this winter. The Bears have cleared 740 points six times. Junior Kylie Foland made the all-state second team last season, and sophomore McKinley Gessner earned honorable mention.

Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference.
Coach: Stefanie Miller, eighth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish. 
Top score: 750.46 at the District. 
Team composition: 18 total (five seniors, eight juniors, one sophomore, four freshmen). 
Outlook: Paw Paw finished seventh last season, its fifth straight placing of seventh or higher, and comes back to the DeltaPlex with 13 upperclassmen. The Redskins won all of their events this season but two, and took first in the league and District before coming in second at the Regional.
Seniors Mary Schincariol and Brianna Eick earned all-region honorable mentions last season.

Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Beth Campbell, fifth season. 
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2016, 2015 and 2014, runner-up 2013.
Top score: 778.52.
Team composition: 22 total (seven seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, five freshmen).
Outlook: The Fighting Irish remain dominant despite second-place finishes to top-ranked Richmond at the District and Regional. They finished second or better in all but one competition, where they finished third, and have scored 760 points or more six times. Notre Dame Prep’s round and overall high scores all rank second to only Richmond’s this winter. Senior Sarah Nantel and juniors McKenna Dooley and Rachel Michel made the all-state second team last season, and seniors Jennifer Redoutey and Anne Seyferth earned honorable mentions.

Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference.
Coach: Kelli Matthes, ninth season.
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2013 and 2012, runner-up three times.
Top score: 784.56.
Team composition: 36 total (11 seniors, five juniors, nine sophomores, 11 freshmen).
Outlook: A large group of juniors that led the team to a runner-up finish last season are now seniors, and they have Richmond the clear favorite with its District and Regional wins just ahead of Notre Dame Prep. Richmond’s average score of 775.3 is more than 12 points higher than Notre Dame’s and nearly 39 higher than the rest of Division 3 – plus it owns the high scores in the division in all three rounds. Seniors Kari Olsen and Kaleigh Taylor made the all-state first team in 2016, and senior Lauren Duche made the second.

PHOTO: Richmond competes during Round 1 at the 2016 Final.

Several Officials Give Time, Talents to Grant $21,000 in Scholarships at 22nd LMCCOA Meet

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

February 14, 2024

Jane Plaisted thinks it's one of those rare high school sporting events where scores and winners are secondary.

Instead, the focus of the recent Lake Michigan Competitive Cheer Officials Association meet is what the event could do for 75 seniors who competed in the sprawling 45-team meet at Byron Center.

All proceeds from the event went to fund scholarships for seniors who opted to write essays and then competed in the annual 22-year-old, three-division meet. The competition, which was completely run by LMCCOA judges, raised $21,000 to up its fundraising total to over $200,000 since the meet originated in 2001.

"It was a glorious day," said Plaisted, an LMCCOA member who has participated in 15 of the competitions. "The girls are happy, we're happy to give our time and it's such a positive day. We love being a part of it."

The event drew teams from as far away as St. Johns, DeWitt, Kalamazoo and Howard City Tri County. The chance to earn scholarship money was open to all 190 seniors who competed, and 75 chose to write an essay about "talking to their younger self and determining how competitive cheer has helped the athlete," said Stacy Smith, the president of the Michigan Cheer Judges Association. Smith said much of the event's dual goal is to promote competitive cheer while helping senior athletes wherever there is a financial need.

Several officials contribute to making the meet an unforgettable experience. The meet started with just five teams and a few hundred dollars in scholarships in 2001, but has blossomed into one of the largest single-day high school sports fundraisers in the state. The meet, which has been held at Byron Center three times as well as schools such as Caledonia and East Kentwood, reached a peak of raising $25,000 a year ago.

What makes the day particularly special, Smith said, is that between 50 and 70 members of the LMCCOA annually show up to donate their time without knowing how their abilities will be put to use. In addition to judging the meet, members handle virtually every other aspect of the competition, from taking tickets, working the concession stand, filling water bottles, scoring, running a 50/50 raffle and whatever else organizers can find for them to do.

"Cheer athletes aren't always recognized a lot for their work, but it's a sport where (Michigan) colleges have gained notoriety at the national level and now offer scholarships," Smith said. "It's become a big deal in the state. Division I and II schools and NAIA schools all offer scholarships now. This can help."

Seniors who choose to participate write their essay prior to the meet, and then a committee of judges pore over the writings during the meet. Winners are announced following the competition. Twenty-one seniors were awarded scholarship money.

Smith said few parents probably grasp how much detail goes into running a long, grueling Saturday event.

"I'm not sure if people realize all the hands that have to make this happen," she said. "We've been doing it for 20 years, and for us it's like riding a bike. You never forget. It's just a wonderful day.

"I'm not surprised people want to be part of it and step up wherever they're needed."

Plaisted said judges sign up for jobs when they arrive at the meet. A judge can be officiating an event one minute and selling hot dogs moments later. The 'work wherever needed' attitude of judges, she said, is what makes the event a popular destination for participating schools.

"As officials, we emphasize young women participating," she said. "That old concept of the dumb blonde cheerleader doesn't exist anymore. This is an accomplished group of girls who we support. If you talk to any of (the judges), this meet is one of the most fun things we're going to do all season.

The LMCCOA also awarded scholarships to seniors from Division 2 and 3 schools."It's become so popular. We gave away like $50 the first year, and since then we've grown from one long day to two sessions so we could increase the number of teams. Everyone goes home with a smile on their face, which for officials doesn't always happen."

Paw Paw cheer coach Stefanie Miller, whose team won the Division 3 portion of the meet, said coaches look forward to taking their teams to the meet.

"Absolutely because it's all about community," she said. "We talk to the girls about service and giving back. It's definitely a teachable moment, not only for the kids but for the adults, too, knowing what goes to the seniors."

"What I like best is that it promotes the athletes and all the work they put in. It's about giving back to them," added Brighton coach Christina Wilson, whose team won the Division 1 competition. "So many teams want to attend, and the coaches want the players to have a chance at a scholarship.

"I'm just in awe of seeing so many people there who are willing to give their energy for the kids."

One of Miller's favorite parts of the meet is watching fathers do a cheer "jump off" of their own tongue-in-cheek cheering skills while waiting for the final scores. She also loves volunteers making nearly 200 bows for participants to wear during the meet.

"Fathers do these cheerleader-type (routines) while there is a lull and it's just great," she said. "It's fun stuff like that that makes the day so special. It's all about giving back."

PHOTOS (Top) MHSAA official Jane Plaisted takes a photo with this year’s LMCCOA Division 1 scholarship winners. (Middle) Several officials contribute to making the meet an unforgettable experience. (Below) The LMCCOA also awarded scholarships to seniors from Division 2 and 3 schools. (Photos courtesy of Stacy Smith.)