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Titans win D-1 state cheer title

By: Jason Carmel Davis | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 9, 2018

 Sterling Heights Stevenson varsity cheerleaders and coaches pose March 2 with their Division 1 state championship trophy.

Sterling Heights Stevenson varsity cheerleaders and coaches pose March 2 with their Division 1 state championship trophy.

Photo provided by Brianna Verdoodt

STERLING HEIGHTS — The Sterling Heights Stevenson cheer team ascended to the top of Division 1 March 2, claiming the program’s first state championship.

The Titans finished the three-round finals with a score of 793.22, edging out Rochester Adams, which notched a score of 790.82. Defending two-time champ Rochester High finished third, scoring 789.70 points.

Stevenson finished second to Rochester last season.

Titans coach Brianna Verdoodt said this year’s team — comprising 10 seniors and 12 sophomores — worked harder than any team she’s ever coached.

“The team started out as a family. That part was already established before the season began,” Verdoodt said. “This first-ever Stevenson state championship was the finish to our fairy-tale story.”

The championship win was a surprise for everyone associated with the team. Verdoodt said the Titans coaching staff did not check scores over the course of the finals, which took place at the Delta Plex in Grand Rapids.

Stevenson waited just like everyone else in attendance to find out they’d been named tops in D-1.

“I immediately dropped to the floor and was flooded with emotions,” Verdoodt said. “One of my seniors ran over to me on the floor and just hugged me so tightly.

“We always joke about this team being ‘ugly girl criers,’ and that’s just what they were — overcome with emotion and pure joy. I could not have asked for a more deserving team to have this achievement.”

Sophomore MacKenzie Klida called the win a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

“It’s hard to describe,” Klida said. “It was a very surreal moment. It was such an amazing feeling, and I don’t think anything will ever compare.”

The seniors on the team include Carolina Poliss, Grace Broadworth, Lily Juncaj, Emily Kleinedler, Emma Vitale, Isabella Nitecki, Angelina Nikolaj, Payton Porth, Kendall Buell and Anna Long.

Kliba will look to defend the title next season with a large group of juniors — Julia Altovilla, Ava Baich, Ariana Owens, Alexis Juncaj, Genevieve DeBuck, Jenna Jekielek, Abby Carpenter, Gabbie Caoagas, Jenna Palmer, Sophia Costa and Megan Storms.

Verdoodt said mental toughness was a theme of the season. She said the group believed winning a state title was a possibility, but something clicked during the regional round of the postseason.

“They had this confident aura around them where they finally believed that they could (win a state championship),” Verdoodt said. “Walking into the finals, they were the calmest and most focused I had seen them all season. I knew then that they’d take it home that night.”