MACOMB TOWNSHIP/GRAND RAPIDS — “To say we were excited is an understatement.”
Those were Macomb Dakota cheer coach Michela Worthy’s thoughts after her team placed third at the 2014 Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 state finals. The appearance at the state finals, which took place Feb. 28 at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids, was the first for the program in the MHSAA format.
Dakota last qualified for the state finals in 2004, when the finals were contested in the Michigan Cheerleading Coaches Association format.
“I am so proud of this team. They did everything we asked them to do,” said Worthy, in her eighth year with the Cougars. “To come to the (MHSAA) competitive cheer finals for the first time and take third place is outstanding. I am so happy for these amazing athletes. They have worked so hard and have been very driven and dedicated.”
The Cougars tallied 778.54 points to finish third. Southgate Anderson captured a state title after notching 785.96 points. Grandville (783.54) finished second in the eight-team competition.
In advancing to the state finals, the Cougars, champions of the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, won a district championship and finished fourth in a regional meet. The top four teams at each regional advanced to the state finals.
Worthy said she sensed nervousness in her team early in the competition. She said the group quickly calmed down and completed a solid program at the state finals.
“They worked so hard this season and were prepared. They brought the intensity and determination we saw all season long,” Worthy said. “The atmosphere in Grand Rapids was electric. … I couldn’t have asked for a better experience for my team.”
Worthy called this year’s team a very special group: one that exceeded every goal it set for itself. The Dakota coach said she has a strong group of underclassmen who will take on leadership roles with the loss of seniors such as Heather Colby, Reily Malczewski, Alexandra Camaj and Jessica Wuolukka. Worthy said the underclassmen left the state finals making sure coaches knew they’re already prepared for next season.
“They know what to expect and are ready to work,” Worthy said. “I knew going into this season, though, that we had a very special team. They became a family. They encouraged one another to be the best they could be.”
Worthy said her goal is to continue to work to have a strong, well-respected cheer program. Getting back to the state finals is also a goal she has set. But the ride this year’s team took will always be remembered.
“This is a season that will live in my heart forever,” Worthy said.