D4 Preview: Hopefuls Seek to Join Elite

March 1, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Hudson joined the list of elite small-school competitive cheer programs last winter when it won its first Division 4 Finals championship.

Could another rising team do the same Saturday?

Four of this season’s eight Division 4 contenders – including 2018 runner-up Sanford Meridian – have never won. The other four contenders, however, have combined for 24 MHSAA titles.

Below are glances at all eight teams competing Saturday. Division 4 begins at 2 p.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: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Emily Gafford, 11th season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.

Top score: 752.72.
Team composition: 14 total (seven seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, two freshmen)
Outlook: Madison has finished third two straight seasons, last year three tenths of a point out of second place. The Trojans have broken 740 six times this season and 750 twice, and their average total score of 728.9 ranks fourth in the division. Senior Molly Hayes and juniors Abbey Dusseau-Garno and Hannah Lobkovich made the all-state first team last season, and junior Alyssa Sayers made the second team.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Nicki Smith, first season
Championship history: Ten MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 724.34 at the Regional.
Team composition: 14 total (four seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, seven freshmen)
Outlook: Breckenridge grad Smith brought the program back after there was no team a year ago, and the Huskies quickly jumped back into the mix placing fourth or higher at all of their competitions. A young team has scored substantially higher as the season has progressed, with the Regional score 55 points higher than its lowest at the beginning of this season. Seniors Olivia Mayle and Shianne Jerry made the all-state first team and seniors Amiah Cole and Carmen Collins made the second in 2017 when as sophomores they helped a nine-member Breckenridge team win its third straight Division 4 title.

League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver
Coach: Sue Smith, sixth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 723.86 at the Regional.
Team composition: 17 total (one senior, two juniors, seven sophomores, seven freshmen)
Outlook: The Mustangs followed their second straight league title by advancing to the Finals for the first time. And talk about improvement: NorthPointe’s Regional score was more than 100 points better than what it posted in its season-opening event this winter. Sophomores Kristi Smith and Malia Baugh earned all-Regional recognition in 2018.

League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Kelly Bailey, 22nd season
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2018, five runner-up finishes. 

Top score: 767.18 at the Regional.
Team composition: 21 total (two seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores, five freshmen)
Outlook: After finishing runner-up in 2017, Hudson broke through for its first title last year and should be in the mix again with that Regional score the second-highest in Division 4 this winter. Hudson won 11 of its 13 competitions, and its best scores in each round all rank among the division’s top four. A number of standouts lead the way again: senior Alexis LaFollette and juniors Anna Loar, Lyndsey Tanner and Anna Valdez all made the all-state first team last season, while sophomore Kallahan Marry made the second and junior Savannah Proudfoot and sophomores Kaley Bloomer and Ahna Marry earned honorable mentions.

League finish: First in Cascades Conference
Coach: Jessica Trefry, 18th season
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), one runner-up finish.
Top score: 759.7.
Team composition: 20 total (three seniors, five juniors, eight sophomores, four freshmen)
Outlook: After a rare miss of the Finals last season – while competing in Division 3 – Michigan Center is back having won its 14th straight league title. All three top round scores and its average total score of 728.9 rank among the top five in the division, with the best Round 3 (315.6) coming in second. Junior Lauryll Samon, senior Carlee Lally and sophomore Jordyn Richardson all earned Division 3 all-Regional recognition last season.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Nicole Lasak, sixth season
Championship history: Seeking first MHSAA Finals top-two finish.
Top score: 741.84 at the District.
Team composition: 10 total (three seniors, three juniors, two sophomores, two freshmen)
Outlook: Munising is back at the Finals for the first time since 2014, having won seven competitions and finished second in its other two this winter. All of its top round scores rank among the top 10 in Division 4, and its average total score of 700 comes in seventh. Juniors Taylin Behning and Kali Donnelly earned all-Regional honors last season.

League finish: Does not compete in a league.
Coach: Staci Myers, 12th season
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), 10 runner-up finishes.

Top score: 764.16.
Team composition: 19 total (five seniors, four juniors, five sophomores, five freshmen)
Outlook: The Pirates are riding District and Regional wins into this weekend and could make a big jump from finishing eighth a year ago. All of P-W’s best round scores rank among the top three in Division 4 – its best Round 2 (224.3) is second on that list – and the Pirates’ average total score of 741.1 ranks second. Senior Kelsey Russell made the all-state first team last season, while senior Cierra Van Ellis made the second and junior Isabelle Droste earned honorable mention.

League finish: First in Jack Pine Conference
Coach: Val MacKenzie, 30th season
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2018.
Top score: 775.98 at the District.
Team composition: 16 total (six seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, two freshmen).
Outlook: Coming off their highest Finals finish ever, Meridian is among favorites Saturday. The Mustangs have the highest average total score in Division 4 at 744.6 and the highest scores this season in all three rounds. They did finish second to Hudson at the Regional, 13 points back, but won nine of their 11 events this winter total. All of the team’s all-state honorees from 2018 are back – seniors Katie Blanchard and McKenna Burns and juniors Lexy North and Dalaynie O’Hare made the first team, seniors Tana Spangler and Becky O’Dell and sophomore Jade McRoberts made the second, and seniors Aubrey Erskine and Elizabeth Melchi earned honorable mentions.

PHOTO: Reigning Division 4 champion Hudson competes at the Alma College Cheer Fest. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)