Hudson Caps Weekend of Repeats as D4 Best at Breslin

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 27, 2021

EAST LANSING – Hudson coach Kelly Bailey has been coaching competitive cheerleading for almost a quarter of a century, and she knows it takes special kids to win back-to-back MHSAA Finals championships.

“They are not normal teenagers,” Bailey said of her team after it pulled away from rival Pewamo-Westphalia in the final round at Saturday’s Division 4 Final at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

“They are all so respectful and they listen so well. Then they just go out there and do everything that we ask them to do.”

That formula certainly did the trick as Hudson used a powerhouse Round 3 to win with a 758.98 total, giving the Tigers their second-straight championship and third in the past four years. Hudson also has runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2019 as part of an amazing five-year stretch.

Pewamo-Westphalia, which led after the first round and trailed by just over one point after two rounds, took second at 751.12 – more than 21 points better than the rest of the field.

Hudson’s win continued the theme of repeat champions at the Cheer Finals.

Even though the venue changed from the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids to the Breslin Center, and the competition was held three weeks later than normal, and the pandemic severely altered practice and competition schedules all season long, all four 2020 champions repeated this weekend – Richmond (Division 3) and Rochester Adams (Division 1) on Friday and Allen Park (Division 2) and Hudson (Division 4) on Saturday.

2021 D4 Competitive Cheer Runner-Up - Pewamo-Westphalia

Hudson’s Kallahan Marry, a senior and returning first-team all-stater, said the win last year gave the team confidence heading into Saturday’s pivotal final round.

“We just said we’ve all done this routine a million times,” said Marry, one of six seniors for the Tigers. “So we knew we just had to go out there and do our job and kill it. Don’t regret anything.”

Other seniors for Hudson were Kaley Bloomer (returning all-state), Ahna Marry and Emma Shirey (both honorable mention all-state), and Kaite Grondin and Karlee Hinzman.

The Tigers also continued an amazing streak of 21 straight appearances at the Cheer Finals, highlighted by now three total championships and six runner-up finishes.

Bailey said Saturday’s was one of the most satisfying titles, because of the challenges with the pandemic and the fact that the team didn’t have its best stuff, but dug deep, stayed positive and got the job done.

“Everybody was real nervous all day today and a big reason is because it was a great performance by P-W,” said Bailey, who shared a long hug with veteran P-W coach Staci Myers after the awards ceremony. “We didn’t have our best score, but we did what we had to do. I’m just really proud of them.”

Pewamo-Westphalia continued another theme of the weekend – a second-place team more ecstatic about taking home the big runner-up trophy than sad about coming up just short.

On Friday, Paw Paw and Grandville both moved ahead of recent powers in their respective divisions to finish runners-up, while DeWitt used a stellar third round on Saturday morning to vault into second.

The Pirates, who have won nine cheer titles with the most recent in 2019, looked like they might notch No. 10, grabbing the lead after Round 1.

P-W performed well in the final two rounds, but Hudson just had too much in its arsenal. Hudson has 20 competitors on its roster, compared to 10 for the Pirates.

“(Hudson) crushed us by 34 points earlier this season, so I’m very proud of how we did today,” said P-W’s Ella Smith, who was joined by fellow seniors Ellie Pohl, Ella Simon, Miya Beech and Miranda Platte.

Pohl seemed to be speaking for many participants at the intense, stressful Cheer Finals, when asked how she would be celebrating her team’s big day.

“I am going to take an ice bath and then a big, long nap,” said Pohl.

Click for full team standings.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson competes during Saturday's Division 4 Final at Breslin Center. (Middle) Pewamo-Westphalia performs a routine on the way to a runner-up finish. 

(Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)


Team of the Month: Croswell-Lexington Competitive Cheer

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 14, 2023

The Croswell-Lexington competitive cheer team had finished fourth, fifth and fourth, respectively over the last three Division 3 Finals as this season began in November with more high expectations – but also the annual challenge of believing those could be attained.

Competing in the same Blue Water Area Conference as Richmond, the Pioneers are more familiar than most with the program that entered the season coming off a fourth-straight Division 3 title. And as a regular at Finals weekend, Cros-Lex also is plenty aware of the power of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, the only other team besides Richmond to win a Division 3 championship between 2012-22.

But during the Pioneers’ first competition this winter, coach Katie Tomlinson knew this could be the team to rise above that history and make some of its own.

Cros-Lex finished fifth of 18 at the Jan. 6 Richmond Invitational, but second in Division 3 to only the host Blue Devils, and with scores including a D3-best 309.30 in Round 3.

“For our first competition, (we had) some of our best scores we’ve ever received – and typically our first competition is really tough for us. So that was kind of a turning point,” Tomlinson said. “Just the confidence they had that first night, competing for the first time, it was just a shift.”

That shift provided early momentum as Cros-Lex made one of the most impressive championship moves in any winter sport this season.

The Pioneers are the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for March after finishing their season as MHSAA Finals champions in the sport for the first time, overcoming a 1.24-point deficit to Richmond after Round 2 to win the Division 3 title at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena.

Croswell-Lexington finished with three-round score of 776.72, seven-tenths of a point better than runner-up Notre Dame Prep and with nearly two points more than the Blue Devils. The Pioneers launched into the lead with a 314.50 in Round 3, the second-best score for that round in the competition.

“I think that it was such a shock for them in the moment and so exciting and rewarding,” Tomlinson recalled this week, “but it definitely was the work put in, just like every other team, and believing in themselves and just going out there and doing what we always do and what we’d worked hard for and what we’d put in that time and effort for – and just watching it pay off. It was kind of a mix of just really believing in ourselves – it’s been a challenge for a few years now building up that confidence to know that they are a team that’s worthy of a state championship and then proving that. They earned it.”

And it was truly a team effort. Cros-Lex had 28 athletes, and only one of the other 31 teams across four divisions at the Finals – Division 1 Grandville with 30 – had more on the roster. Of those 28, 22 competed in at least one round at CMU. Juniors Alexis Bales, Cora Katulski, Shelby Oliver and Makayla Rice and sophomore Carly Old competed in all three rounds, while seniors Noelle Golda, Santanna Horning and Emma Six and sophomores Larkin Krohn, Niah Krohn, Kaleigh Kelch and Addyson Sharpe competed in two rounds. Seniors Cassidy Seaman, Deborahann White, Maria Tabernero and Alleyna Martinez; junior Grace Hodges, sophomores Emma Yearkey, Madison Greenaway, Maggie Wallace and Addison Gardner; and freshman Chelsea Miller also took the mat.

Oliver, Katulski, Rice, Bales, Old and Kelch made the all-state first team. Wallace, Hodges and Sharpe made the second team, and Six, Horning and Golda earned honorable mentions.

Cros-Lex had finished second to Richmond in the BWAC and second to Notre Dame Prep at their District before finishing third to both at the Regional. The Pioneers had never finished higher than fourth at a Final.

“We are up against (Richmond) quite a bit and I’m super close with Kelli (Blue Devils coach Kelli Matthes) … and honestly, we enjoy going to the competitions that have those teams that have won on that stage,” said Tomlinson, who has been part of the Pioneers cheer program since seventh grade beginning as an athlete and including the last eight seasons as head coach. “It sure pushes us further to be better and keep improving instead of staying satisfactory.

“It does make it hard when you’re up against such powers for years where they take it every single year. It makes the girls second-guess themselves and their capabilities, so that was a big thing that we started back in June for sideline and tried since to implement every day – the confidence and the belief in ourselves that even though they’re great, we are too.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2022-23

February: Hart girls & boys basketball - Report
Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
Byron Center hockey - Report
Martin football - Report
Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report