Jags Top Rival, Take Back D2 Supremacy

March 7, 2020

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Allen Park took its turn Saturday with the upper hand in one of Michigan’s best – and most intense – high school rivalries.

The Jaguars got the better of Downriver League and regional competitive cheer rival Gibraltar Carlson during the morning’s MHSAA Division 2 Finals at the Delta Plex.

“It was our year,” said 15th-year Allen Park coach Julie Goodwin, who previously guided the Jaguars to Division 2 titles in 2010 and 2017. “To be the best, you have to beat the best. Today was our day.”

The two schools now have combined to win the past 13 Division 2 cheer titles – Carlson has 10 and Allen Park three.

Allen Park triumphed in convincing fashion, posting the highest score in all three rounds to win by nearly three full points, a relatively lopsided victory in a rivalry that often is decided by tenths of a point.

Allen Park won with 790.88, and Carlson was second with 787.96. DeWitt (775.70) edged Walled Lake Western (775.14) for third place, and Muskegon Mona Shores (767.96) rounded out the top five.

Making the title even more impressive was the fact the Jaguars won it with no returning first team all-staters and just two seniors, co-captains Jessika Palmarchuk and Emily Obrycki-Smith.

“The past three years I’ve had eight, nine and eight seniors; now this year I only have two,” said Goodwin, who is assisted by Meghan Terry, Kim Isom, Tina Johnson, Jessica Tremonti and Theresa Couturier. “But that doesn’t change our approach at all. I do have 11 juniors, and they are a very strong, committed, bonded team this year.”

Allen Park led Carlson by 1.1 points after Round 1, then extended that lead slightly to 1.52 points after Round 2.

At that point, Goodwin broke from tradition.

“She doesn’t usually tell us (the scores), so we’re kind of blind, but she told us this year,” said Palmarchuk, a flyer. “It made us fell less nervous. We knew if we went out there and hit it, that (the title) would be ours.”

The Jaguars, performing fourth out of eight teams in the pivotal Round 3, put an exclamation point on their victory with a solid stunting performance and a score of 321.90.

That put tremendous pressure on Carlson, which went seventh in the final round. The Marauders proved their mettle with a strong showing, but their score of 320.50 was not enough.

All that was left after that was the official announcement. With all eight teams huddled on the mat, the public address announcer revealed Carlson as the runner-up, which led to an explosion from the Allen Park team, coaches and fans, who chanted: “AP! AP!”

The 11 juniors for Allen Park, who will be asked to step up to leadership roles next year, are Kylee Dietz, Cloe Dobbs, Alaina Frazier, Rayden Guthrie, Haylee Jent, Monica Karagozian, Rachel Kleinow, Skyler Longton, Hailey Lopez, Gailey Tuttle and Olivia Watts.

Carlson has posted 11 overall cheer titles, which rank second in state history behind Rochester’s 14, and now has six runner-up finishes. The Marauders beat Allen Park last month for the conference title, but took second to the Jaguars at their Regional.

First-year Carlson coach Emily Howard was seeking to become the sixth cheer head coach to lead the school to a Finals title.

“It’s a great rivalry and it’s not over, that’s for sure,” said Howard, an assistant coach last year who moved up to replace Ann Hajec, who led the team to the 2019 championship in her only season as head coach. “They had the edge all day today.”

Carlson cheer has not finished worse than second at the Finals since 2007.

Southgate Anderson took sixth, followed by Cedar Springs and Charlotte.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Allen Park celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday at the Delta Plex. (Middle) Gibraltar Carlson performs a routine on the way to a runner-up finish.

Several Officials Give Time, Talents to Grant $21,000 in Scholarships at 22nd LMCCOA Meet

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

February 14, 2024

Jane Plaisted thinks it's one of those rare high school sporting events where scores and winners are secondary.

Instead, the focus of the recent Lake Michigan Competitive Cheer Officials Association meet is what the event could do for 75 seniors who competed in the sprawling 45-team meet at Byron Center.

All proceeds from the event went to fund scholarships for seniors who opted to write essays and then competed in the annual 22-year-old, three-division meet. The competition, which was completely run by LMCCOA judges, raised $21,000 to up its fundraising total to over $200,000 since the meet originated in 2001.

"It was a glorious day," said Plaisted, an LMCCOA member who has participated in 15 of the competitions. "The girls are happy, we're happy to give our time and it's such a positive day. We love being a part of it."

The event drew teams from as far away as St. Johns, DeWitt, Kalamazoo and Howard City Tri County. The chance to earn scholarship money was open to all 190 seniors who competed, and 75 chose to write an essay about "talking to their younger self and determining how competitive cheer has helped the athlete," said Stacy Smith, the president of the Michigan Cheer Judges Association. Smith said much of the event's dual goal is to promote competitive cheer while helping senior athletes wherever there is a financial need.

Several officials contribute to making the meet an unforgettable experience. The meet started with just five teams and a few hundred dollars in scholarships in 2001, but has blossomed into one of the largest single-day high school sports fundraisers in the state. The meet, which has been held at Byron Center three times as well as schools such as Caledonia and East Kentwood, reached a peak of raising $25,000 a year ago.

What makes the day particularly special, Smith said, is that between 50 and 70 members of the LMCCOA annually show up to donate their time without knowing how their abilities will be put to use. In addition to judging the meet, members handle virtually every other aspect of the competition, from taking tickets, working the concession stand, filling water bottles, scoring, running a 50/50 raffle and whatever else organizers can find for them to do.

"Cheer athletes aren't always recognized a lot for their work, but it's a sport where (Michigan) colleges have gained notoriety at the national level and now offer scholarships," Smith said. "It's become a big deal in the state. Division I and II schools and NAIA schools all offer scholarships now. This can help."

Seniors who choose to participate write their essay prior to the meet, and then a committee of judges pore over the writings during the meet. Winners are announced following the competition. Twenty-one seniors were awarded scholarship money.

Smith said few parents probably grasp how much detail goes into running a long, grueling Saturday event.

"I'm not sure if people realize all the hands that have to make this happen," she said. "We've been doing it for 20 years, and for us it's like riding a bike. You never forget. It's just a wonderful day.

"I'm not surprised people want to be part of it and step up wherever they're needed."

Plaisted said judges sign up for jobs when they arrive at the meet. A judge can be officiating an event one minute and selling hot dogs moments later. The 'work wherever needed' attitude of judges, she said, is what makes the event a popular destination for participating schools.

"As officials, we emphasize young women participating," she said. "That old concept of the dumb blonde cheerleader doesn't exist anymore. This is an accomplished group of girls who we support. If you talk to any of (the judges), this meet is one of the most fun things we're going to do all season.

The LMCCOA also awarded scholarships to seniors from Division 2 and 3 schools."It's become so popular. We gave away like $50 the first year, and since then we've grown from one long day to two sessions so we could increase the number of teams. Everyone goes home with a smile on their face, which for officials doesn't always happen."

Paw Paw cheer coach Stefanie Miller, whose team won the Division 3 portion of the meet, said coaches look forward to taking their teams to the meet.

"Absolutely because it's all about community," she said. "We talk to the girls about service and giving back. It's definitely a teachable moment, not only for the kids but for the adults, too, knowing what goes to the seniors."

"What I like best is that it promotes the athletes and all the work they put in. It's about giving back to them," added Brighton coach Christina Wilson, whose team won the Division 1 competition. "So many teams want to attend, and the coaches want the players to have a chance at a scholarship.

"I'm just in awe of seeing so many people there who are willing to give their energy for the kids."

One of Miller's favorite parts of the meet is watching fathers do a cheer "jump off" of their own tongue-in-cheek cheering skills while waiting for the final scores. She also loves volunteers making nearly 200 bows for participants to wear during the meet.

"Fathers do these cheerleader-type (routines) while there is a lull and it's just great," she said. "It's fun stuff like that that makes the day so special. It's all about giving back."

PHOTOS (Top) MHSAA official Jane Plaisted takes a photo with this year’s LMCCOA Division 1 scholarship winners. (Middle) Several officials contribute to making the meet an unforgettable experience. (Below) The LMCCOA also awarded scholarships to seniors from Division 2 and 3 schools. (Photos courtesy of Stacy Smith.)