D4 Preview: Breckenridge Ready to Repeat

March 4, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Breckenridge returned to the elite of MHSAA competitive cheer last season and remains the team to beat at this weekend’s Division 4 Final.

But although the Huskies ended Michigan Center’s four-season hold on the championship in 2015, they must again hold off the Cardinals and six more contenders seeking their first Finals title.

Following are glances at all eight Division 4 teams competing at the Grand Rapids DeltaPlex beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday. All four Finals will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a subscription basis

BRECKENRIDGE
Rank: No. 1.
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Co-coaches: Deb Gaines, 31st season; Jenna Graham, eighth season.
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 767.34.
Team composition: 18 total (seven seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Breckenridge completed its program comeback by winning Division 4 last year, and a repeat this weekend might signal a start of another run like the four straight titles won during the mid-2000s. The Huskies won all of their events this season except the Ovid-Elsie Invitational, where they finished second, and have scored 760 or more points four times – they’ve posted the high score in Division 4 in every round, and their average overall score of 739.90 is 21.2 points ahead of the next highest. Two-thirds of the current roster received all-state honors last season: senior Lindsey Reichard, juniors Madison Smith, Alexandria Gillis and Harley Conklin and sophomores Kasey Conn and Anyssa Betancourt made the first team; seniors Katie Mortensen and Dakota Colthorp and junior Lena Crowell made the second team; and seniors Kaitlyn Corson, Paige Guthrie and Alicia Gutierrez earned honorable mention.

FARWELL
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Second in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Taylor Bryant, fourth season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 704.36.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen). 
Outlook: Farwell has posted its top three overall scores over its last three events and emerged from the strong Jack Pine Conference to reach the Finals for the first time under Bryant. The Eagles emerged from a Regional that included No. 11 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian and haven’t finished lower than fourth at an event this season. Seniors Michelle Boyd, Reagan Douglas and Halaina Laverty earned all-district recognition last season.

HOUGHTON LAKE
Rank: No. 5.
League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Celeste Kubiak, 11th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 741.48.
Team composition: 13 total (four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Houghton Lake is looking to take the next step after improving from sixth to fifth over the last two Finals and has won 10 of 13 events this winter, never finishing lower than fourth. The Bobcats’ top round scores this season all rank among the top five in Division 4, and the Round 1 best of 231 points is second only to Breckenridge’s top score, and by less than a point. Seniors Ali Juillerat, Ashley Leahy, Miki Maze and Sarah McNeill and sophomore Jessica Whelpley earned all-district recognition last season.

HUDSON
Rank: No. 2.
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 19th season.
Championship history: Four runner-up finishes (most recent 2010). 
Top score: 733.18.
Team composition: 21 total (nine seniors, six juniors, five sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Hudson has finished third, third, third and fourth in Division 4 the last four seasons and has scored more than 700 points 11 times this winter to build the third-highest average total score in the division of 712.8. All three top round scores rank among the top eight in the division, and the Tigers could make their biggest push in Round 2. Senior Takota Voelzke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Alex Smith made the second team with junior Bobbi Selix receiving honorable mention.

MERRILL
Rank: No. 4.
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference West.
Coach: Courtney Schiller, 11th season.
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2014.
Top score: 737.98.
Team composition: 10 total (four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores, one freshman).
Outlook: After a year away, the 2014 runner-up will return to the Finals, and has shined on the way while sharing a league with favorite Breckenridge. All three of the Vandals’ top round scores rank among the top five in Division 4, and their average overall score of 718.7 is second in the division. While Merrill finished first at only one event, it placed lower than second just three times and never lower than fourth.

MICHIGAN CENTER
Rank: No. 3.
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 15th season.
Championship history: Five Division 4 titles (most recent 2014). 
Top score: 750.10. 
Team composition: 16 total (six seniors, three juniors, three sophomores, four freshmen).
Outlook: Michigan Center followed up its string of four straight Division 4 championships with a third-place finish a year ago, and has finished lower than second in an event only once this season. The Cardinals’ nine events won included the District, and they finished second at their Regional only to top-ranked Breckenridge. Their best round scores for all three rank among the top four in the division. Seniors Victoria Corwin and Olivia Manke made the all-state first team last season, and senior Allison Hatt made the second team.

SANFORD MERIDIAN EARLY COLLEGE
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Third in Jack Pine Conference.
Coach: Val MacKenzie, 22nd season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 721.92 at the Regional.
Team composition: 10 total (three seniors, seven freshmen). 
Outlook: Meridian gives the Jack Pine Conference its third team at the Finals and in this division. The Mustangs won four events this winter including the Regional ahead of league opponents No. 5 Houghton Lake and Farwell. The team owns the ninth-best Round 2 score in the division this season, and that Regional score was more than 18 points better than what the team posted in finishing second at the District. Senior Courtney Wasalaski earned all-district honorable mention in 2015.

SHELBY
Rank: Unranked.
League finish: Tied for first in West Michigan Conference. 
Coach: Penny Grinage-Guy, 18th season.
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 711.98.
Team composition: 20 total (eight seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, one freshman). 
Outlook: Shelby is back at the Finals for the second straight season and looking to improve on its eighth-place finish in 2015 after winning a District title and finishing third at its Regional. The Tigers ran off a string of eight first or second-place finishes over their first 10 events and have posted their top three scores of the season over their last three meets. Sophomore Sophie Clark is a returning all-state first-teamer, while senior Elizabeth Kelly made the second team last season and senior Brittany Shellhouse earned honorable mention.

PHOTO: Breckenridge begins its Round 3 routine on the way to winning last season’s Division 4 championship.

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:
Maddy Stern's Story - Read
July 26:
Reese Miller's Story - Read
July 19:
Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12:
Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5:
Ella Boose's Story - Read
June 28:
Kaila Jackson's Story - Read
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: 
From Gymnastics to Wrestling, Girls Opportunities Continue to Grow - Read
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: 
Portage Central's Tarpley Scores as State's Superstar, U.S. Soccer Hero - Read
May 3: 
Prychitko 'Legend In Her Own Time,' Legend for All Time - Read
April 26: 
Braddock vs. Verdun Still Striding Among All-Time Sprint Matchups - Read
April 19: 
Holmes' Strikeout Record Rarely Approached, May Be Unbreakable - Read
April 12: 
Anticipation High as 45,000 Girls Return to Spring Sports - Read
April 5: 
Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: 
Edison's Whitehorn named 2022 Miss Basketball - Read
March 22: 
Carney-Nadeau Sets Girls Hoops Standard with 78-Win Streak - Read
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: 
Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
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: 
Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: 
Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: 
Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read