by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER
The slogan emblazoned on the back of the competitive cheer t-shirts couldn’t have been more appropriate. The message “Head to Head in the OK Red” clearly set the stage for an all-out battle in both the OK Red post-conference cheer finals and the Division I district championships held last week at Rockford High School.
Although sold at only the conference competition on Wednesday, the t-shirts’ implication rang true for the district competition as well. Even though 14 teams competed Saturday for the chance to move on to the regional at Brighton, everyone knew that the top four spots, as well as the next two, would be secured by teams from the OK Red. With five of the top 10-ranked teams in Division I coming from the conference, no one can argue that the Red is the most competitive league in the state.
In the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) most recent postings, East Kentwood was ranked second behind Rochester, and West Ottawa was ranked third, followed by Grandville (fourth), Jenison (eighth), and Rockford (10th). In addition, Grandville has won the state title four times since 1997 and placed in the runner-up spot five times. West Ottawa has been runner-up twice, and East Kentwood has been second once. In both the conference and district competitions, those three, along with the host Rams, Jenison and Hudsonville, fought for the top spots.
For Rockford coach Kathy Jo Resseguie – whose Rams finished third at the post-conference meet and fourth at districts – placing in the top four was significant. “[On Wednesday], I was hoping to move up from fourth at the pre-conference ” she said. “Rockford has kind of settled into that fourth-place spot. It gave us a confidence booster going into the weekend to finish third. That was awesome! To finish fourth at districts is amazing. I don’t think the girls realize how good fourth in this area is. This area sets the bar for everybody. To finish second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth in this area is unbelievable.”
The district competitions are new. In previous years, teams competed in regional competitions with only two teams advancing to the state meet. With four of the five regions contested on the east side of the state, only two of the OK Red powerhouses had a chance to move on, leaving three or four of the West Michigan teams totally frustrated, knowing that some of the east-side teams qualifying for state wouldn’t even be ranked, and their regional scores wouldn’t be nearly as high as the scores of the OK Red teams that didn’t qualify. Last year Rockford just missed qualifying, finishing third behind East Kentwood and Grandville. The Rams earned the sixth highest regional score in 2008, but five teams with lower scores advanced to the state meet.
“We talked a lot Friday night about all we wanted was to move on, but if it had to be like last year when we didn’t qualify, we wanted to go out there in front of the home crowd and have three solid rounds,” said Resseguie, whose team scored its highest total of the year Saturday (795.85), a score which would have placed them third at state in 2008.
“It was such an amazing day with the girls putting it all out on the floor,” she continued. “They had no regrets. They enjoyed cheering today. They showed a lot more excitement and passion, and that propelled us into fourth place. The district gives the opportunity for the teams in this area who are so talented to move on. We’ve made it to regionals. Now we have to try to make it to state.”
East Kentwood was crowned the winner of both the post-conference meet and the district competition, scoring 806.4 on Wednesday and 805.57 on Saturday. The Falcons trailed Grandville by nearly six points going into the final round, but a stellar performance in round three and some miscues on Grandville’s part gave East Kentwood the win. Coming in a close second was West Ottawa, who scored just below the Falcons in every round for an 804.22 final. Grandville placed third with 797.74 points, followed by the Rams (795.85), Jenison (788.65), and Hudsonville (776.73). The next closest competitor was Forest Hills (735.01). No other team scored in the 700s.
At the post-conference meet, Grandville was second (805.5), followed by Rockford (780.4), Jenison (780.36), Hudsonville (776.54), West Ottawa (776.44), Grand Haven (589.91), and Muskegon (382.32). Because the Bulldogs of Grandville had won the pre-conference meet in January, and East Kentwood had finished third, Grandville won the league championships, with the Falcons finishing second. Jenison was third, Rockford fourth, and West Ottawa fifth.
Two Rockford girls, Abby Brown and Danielle Gerow, made the All District first team. Morgan Ruchty and Alex Lane made the All District second team, with Honorable Mentions Nicole Siderius and Andrea Decker.
At the junior varsity/freshman conference meet on Monday at Rockford, the Rams won the junior varsity title and finished second in the ninth-grade competition.