For four or five years or so, the Utica Eisenhower cheer team has been trying to overcome Utica Stevenson for a Macomb Area Conference Red Division title, according to coach Danielle Sclafani.
Sclafani said that, in most of those years, Eisenhower finished second to Stevenson.
She was waiting for the year her team would break through and capture a league championship, and this was it, as Eisenhower won what Sclafani was told is the first division title in program history.
She enjoyed seeing the fruition of a long-awaited goal.
“For a number of years, it seemed that we pushed (ourselves) and came so close,” Sclafani said. “And to actually win it this year was such a great accomplishment for the kids, the team (and) our spectators at school. It was a wonderful day, and a wonderful feeling to finally cinch the title. It was a priceless moment. Just to hear the girls’ names called was an accomplishment. They had been working so hard for so many years. It was a moment that I’ll never forget.”
As nice as a league title is, Eisenhower’s season didn’t end there. The Eagles went on to finish in fourth place in a district competition, which qualified them for regionals, and along with Warren Cousino, were named the sportsmanship award winners for the MAC Red. Sclafani also picked up Coach of Year honors in the division. Ike wrapped up the season after finishing seventh in its regional, hosted by Troy Athens Feb. 23. Stoney Creek, Rochester High, Southgate Anderson and Stevenson advanced to the state final from the Troy Athens regional.
Sclafani thinks her cheerleaders understand that their success may have helped to set a new standard for the program.
“I think they’ve paved a new road for those incoming girls to really step up to the plate, and giving them the confidence to show them, ‘Look, we wanted it enough. We worked hard enough, and you can do it, too.”
Sclafani expressed optimism that the future of Eisenhower’s cheerleading program has the potential to be a good one.
“Eisenhower’s a great school,” the coach said. “They’ve always had a strong cheerleading program. When I took over, they had just come off of a state championship in 2004 (Michigan Competitive Cheer Association), and I felt like I had big shoes to fill walking in there.
“It’s taken quite a few years, but we’ve worked our way up the ladder and made a name for ourselves in the Macomb and Oakland area, and a lot of the teams we compete against. I think that achieving these small steps along the way, that it really has laid the foundation for what’s to come.”