MOUNT PLEASANT – Hudson High School is going to need a bigger trophy case, and soon, the way its winter sports teams are piling up championships.
Hudson’s competitive cheer team won its fourth-straight Division 4 title Thursday at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena, and the Tigers now have finished either first or second in the state seven years in a row.
“Do you want me to cry?” said 26th-year Hudson coach Kelly Bailey when asked about her emotions shortly after her team’s dominant 771.04-point performance, more than 25 points ahead of the field.
“We gave them some tough stuff each round and that added to the pressure, but they wanted the challenge and they wanted to do it. They pulled it off.”
Hudson’s cheer program is engaged in a healthy competition with the school’s wrestling program, which just five days earlier won its 10th Division 4 team championship over the past 14 years.
That kind of simultaneous success for two programs at the same school, in the same season, is remarkable – and the orange-and-black-clad Tigers fans were out in force Thursday afternoon in Mount Pleasant, just like they were last Friday in Kalamazoo.
Hudson produced the highest score in all three rounds of the Final, never allowing the other seven teams to gain momentum in an upset bid.
“There was a lot of pressure to win it again,” said Hudson senior Annalyse Ames, one of four returning first-team all-staters for the Tigers. “But I was more excited than nervous. I knew we would go out on the mat and kill it.”
The challenging routines led the way to the 771.04 winning score, which was close to the team’s season-best of 774.94, and much higher than its score at its Regional (740.38) and its season-average score (750.42).
Other returning all-state first-teamers for Hudson this winter were senior Cheyenne Eichler and juniors Rylie Bloomer and Victoria Hawkins. Seniors Ellie Bean, Shantzee Henderson and Isabella Moreno were second team all-state and junior Paige Clark was honorable mention in 2022.
Hudson’s roster was filled with upperclassmen, with seven seniors and seven juniors on the 19-athlete roster.
Emotions were all over the board for Hudson’s seniors, who never were outplaced by a Division 4 school in any competition during their four-year careers.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world and super sad at the same time,” said Eichler.
Gibraltar Carlson has the competitive cheer Finals record with six consecutive titles from 2011-16. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (2014-18) and Rochester (1999-2003) both won five straight championships.
Michigan Center, which was up in Division 3 in 2022 and didn’t make the Finals, came back strong this winter and capped it with a runner-up trophy Thursday.
The Cardinals, who won the Cascades Conference and took second at their Regional behind Hudson, took second again at 745.20 points – just shy of their season-best of 745.94.
“I am so proud because these girls rose to a level today that they have not had all season,” said Michigan Center coach Jessica Trefry, who shares the head coaching duties with Bree Cash. “Hudson is an amazing team, but I can say that we brought our best today.”
Michigan Center, which has won five Finals championships, finished runner-up for the second time.
Adrian Madison (741.16) took third, followed by Hart (739.56) and Merrill (730.20).
Hudson, a small community in southeast Michigan with fewer than 3,000 residents, was for a long time best-known for its 72-game winning streak in football from 1968 to 1975.
But, no question, Hudson’s competitive cheer and wrestling programs have put the town back on the map.
“We feel the pressure to keep it going, for sure,” said Bailey, who is assisted by Lyndsi Bailey and Jacque Marry. “But the Finals is a little different, because once we’re here, we’re done learning and we’re done fixing.
“I told them just to go out there and have a blast.”
PHOTOS (Top) Hudson is 16 athletes strong during this round of Thursday’s Division 4 Final. (Middle) Michigan Center competes on the way to its runner-up finish.
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
January: Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
December: Byron Center hockey - Report
November: Martin football - Report
October: Gladwin volleyball - Report
September: Negaunee girls tennis - Report