Join Kara Liles and Christina Wilson-Peacock for another edition of Ready, Set, Cheer.
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.)