By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
GRAND RAPIDS – The rebuilding process has been completed for the Breckenridge competitive cheer team.
After six years without a program due to low numbers, the Huskies returned to the top after dominating Saturday’s Division 4 Competitive Cheer Final at The DeltaPlex.
The Huskies finished with a three-round score of 754.1 and collected their eighth MHSAA title in school history.
Pewamo-Westphalia placed runner-up at 730.40, while Michigan Center’s streak of four Finals titles in a row ended with its third-place finish (726.02).
“We all knew that our goal was to win another state championship and we completely exceeded our expectations of this year,” all-state sophomore Alexandria Gillis said. “And we’re all really proud of each other.”
Breckenridge was able to compete with a full varsity squad last season for the first time in seven years and advanced to the Finals, where they placed fifth.
Deb Gaines, who co-coached with Jenna Graham, guided the team to its last Finals title in 2007 before the hiatus.
“I retired and went back to recruiting at the lower levels to start it back up,” Gaines said. “We kind of ran out of girls, the middle school program kind of fizzled and we just didn’t have enough high school kids at that point.
“We started rebuilding all those years ago, and now they’ve grown up and here we are. It’s a great feeling, and they did great. We still have a pretty young team.”
Breckenridge set the tone early and posted the Final’s high scores in every round en route to a comfortable advantage.
It scored 229.10 in Round 1 and 216.46 in Round 2. The Pirates capped off the day with a 308.70 in Round 3.
“We knew it was going to be our last performance, so we wanted to go out there and give it our all and leave it all on the mat,” Gillis said. “Leave no doubts that we didn’t do everything we could do. We went out there and fought for it.”
The Huskies led P-W by almost 15 points entering the final round, a sizable margin built by a pair of nearly flawless routines.
“When we make up our cheers, it’s all about the meaning of the cheer and what they’re saying,” Gaines said. “You mean what you say and say what you mean, and vocally they really pushed that out and everything else followed. They gained a lot of confidence the last three weeks starting at Districts and into Regionals. We saw it coming and coming.”
Graham said the final round proved to be the icing on the cake.
“We’ve had a strong Round 3 all season so they knew when the time came, if we hit it, we were going to get there,” Graham said. “They did awesome.”
It was the 10th Finals runner-up finish in school history for P-W, but it was a satisfying accomplishment after narrowly missing the Finals last season by one spot at Regionals.
The Pirates placed runner-up three straight years (2011-13) after winning the Division 4 Final in 2010.
“They were super excited, determined and worked very hard all year to get here again,” P-W coach Staci Myers said. “It was a goal just to make it and let the chips fall where they may. They just wanted to come today and perform to the best of their ability, and they were going to let where we fell where we fell.”
Myers said this year’s group, led by six seniors, improved as the season progressed.
“We did the best we could in every round (today) and they’ve improved every week,” she said. “This is the best they’ve done all year long, and they definitely peaked at the right time. We’re really proud of them for working so hard these last two weeks and just to get here has been amazing.”
Breckenridge will have the luxury of returning everyone next season in its bid to repeat. There were no seniors on this year’s team.
Instead, seven juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen paved the way.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know that everybody’s going to be back because we can get stronger with the same people we’ve had,” Gillis said.
Click for full results.
PHOTOS: (Top) Breckenridge cheerleaders hoist their championship trophy Saturday. (Middle) Pewamo-Westphalia added another top Finals finish at this season’s Division 4 meet.
MOUNT PLEASANT – Allen Park competitive cheer coach Julie Goodwin calls Round 3 her team’s “money round.”
And did the Jaguars ever make it pay off Saturday at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena.
Allen Park and Gibraltar Carlson had combined to win every MHSAA Division 2 Final championship over the last 16 seasons – and entered Round 3 this time separated by a mere 54 hundredths of a point.
That was just shy of the margin Carlson won by, over Allen Park, at last year’s championship meet. But the margin of victory this time would not be so close.
The Jaguars cashed in big with a seemingly flawless routine, their 322.40 the highest Round 3 score at the Finals in any division since 2012, and pulled away from the field to finish with 793.34 points and their fourth championship over the last five seasons.
“It felt so incredible. That was the round that we were waiting to perform all season,” Allen Park junior Abigail Obrycki said. “It felt perfect. It felt like everybody gave exactly what they were supposed to do, and it was just perfect.
“It’s what we love to do. We love stunting. We love perfecting it and getting everything exactly how it’s supposed to be.”
Allen Park led by only two tenths of a point after Round 1, with Carlson just behind, and was able to extend that lead only another 34 hundredths of a point in Round 2.
Carlson – which finished first in the Downriver League ahead of Allen Park before Allen Park won their Regional – also had to absorb a significant penalty that ended up sending the Marauders to fourth in the final standings.
“We had an amazing week of practice, we had an amazing season. It’s been a journey, it wasn’t an instant climb, and they did everything they needed,” said Allen Park coach Julie Goodwin, who was finishing her 20th season and 20th time bringing the team to the Finals. “They needed three clean rounds today, and they did it.”
Carleton Airport finished runner-up, its highest at a Finals since finishing Class B runner-up in 2003.
These last three weeks have seen the Jets certainly land among the state’s elite in just their second season under coach Emily Dusik. Airport won their District two weeks ago, just ahead of Carlson, and then finished behind Allen Park and Carlson at their Regional but with a season-high score that was six points higher than their previous best this season. The Jets also enjoyed their major surge despite moving into Division 2 after competing in Division 3 last season.
“I think (today) gave the girls a drive that they’ve never really experienced before. Being here today, it opened their eyes to their potential and really allowed them to believe in what they’re doing,” Dusik said. “We tell them all year just do your best, and we had a little bit of a tough time today and they still came out and did a great job. I’m just so proud of everything they’ve done.
“It’s kinda unbelievable right now. It’s just incredible. But it’s all the girls. I try to fill their buckets as much as possible and try to give them as much positivity to believe in themselves, and it’s really showing. They’re starting to believe that they’re capable of great things.”
Airport finished with a score of 779.92, with Dearborn Divine Child right behind at 779.84. Carlson was in that mix as well at 778.10, followed by Cedar Springs, Middleville Thornapple Kellogg, Plainwell and Muskegon Reeths-Puffer.
PHOTOS (Top) Allen Park competes during Saturday's Division 2 Finals at McGuirk Arena. (Middle) The Jaguars celebrate their fourth championship in five seasons. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)