By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – Breckenridge’s Dakota Colthorp was part of a group of wide-eyed and enthusiastic fifth graders who wanted to be involved in competitive cheer.
At the time, the high school didn’t have a team due to low numbers.
Seven years later, Colthorp and her elementary school classmates have become instrumental in helping restore the program to the dominant level it had been accustomed to in the 2000s.
Breckenridge captured its second straight MHSAA Division 4 Final on Saturday at The DeltaPlex.
The Huskies notched high scores in each round to tally a 767.68 and best runner-up Michigan Center (754.12).
“It’s incredibly special for us,” Colthorp said. “We didn’t have a team for awhile, and our group of seniors are the ones who brought it back. We started in fifth grade and have not left since. The seven of us went through middle school with this program and we helped rebuild it to where it is today. It’s incredible to say that we are back-to-back state champions.”
The senior class also included Kaitlyn Corson, Paige Guthrie, Alicia Gutierrez, Katie Mortensen, Justine Brabaw and Lindsey Reichard.
"It's very special because we've wanted this for a long time," Guthrie said. "We've had family members who have won before, and we wanted to do the same. My cousins cheered in 2007."
The seniors were motivated to end their high school careers with another top finish.
“For the seven of us, it’s the last time being able to do that,” Colthorp said. “So we made sure to give it our all and leave it all out on the mat. It might not have been perfect in the warm-up room, but we came together and gave it our best on the mat.
“We put in a lot of hard work in and it was very rewarding to be here and be able to bring home the trophy.”
The Huskies repeated for the first time since 2007, the last time they won an MHSAA Division 4 championship.
They won six Class C/D titles during a span of seven seasons from 2000-2006.
Breckenridge coach Deb Gaines recruited the seniors from that fifth-grade class.
“They were very committed and dedicated,” Gaines said. “They were key to our program coming back, and others followed. I think some of them had perfect attendance through the years. There were very few absences.”
Huskies co-coach Jenna Graham said the seniors have always been there to lend support.
“We’ve relied on them for motivation on and off the mat,” she said. “They’ve really tried to step up and be the leaders we needed this year. They’ve been here so long that we just expected that out of them and stepped up to it.”
It was a different environment this season for Breckenridge than the last time they were here. The Huskies were now the team everyone was chasing.
“They were just here to do their thing last year, no pressure,” Graham said. “But this year was different. We had to defend that title. Defend and repeat has been our motto all season.”
Added Gaines: “It’s hard to repeat in anything. We just had to keep stepping up our game and going for it. Rounds 1 and 2 were exceptionally strong, and in Round 3 they just delivered.”
Round 3 did have early drama for the Huskies. They had a nearly seven-point cushion entering the final round; however, an early fall tested their resolve.
“We were hoping to have that lead so there was a little room for error,” Graham said. “We trained them how to deal with that when it happens.”
“Anything can happen out there,” Gaines said. “It’s all about how you recover and how you fight back harder.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Breckenridge dominated the first two rounds Saturday to repeat as Division 4 champion. (Middle) Michigan Center improved one spot from 2015 to finish runner-up.
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.
"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.
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May 31: Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read
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May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
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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
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Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
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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
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Dec. 7: Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
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