Lakewood's girls shout from their stunt groups during round three Friday at their CheerFest. (Photo by Brett Bremer)
If the Vikings are going to earn a trip west to the DeltaPlex for the Division 3 State Finals at the end of the varsity competitive cheer season they have to be ready to get through the east next month – with a district tournament at Frankenmuth and a regional tournament at Novi should they advance.
With those goals for February and March, the months of November, December and January have been a little different for the Vikings.
When coach Kim Martin and her team learned in early November that they'd be going through the eastern half of the state postseason tournament, the Vikings knew they'd have to have their back tucks in round two perfected and that round three was going to need a little more pizazz. Only the top four teams from each of the two regionals in each division qualify for the state finals each year.
“The top teams are over there,” Lakewood head coach Kim Martin said. “You've got to play the game. You've got to do what they're doing. Everything over there is visual, you move, you go, you don't put stunts down and walk, you keep your flyer in the air. We knew we had to do that.”
The Vikings put up progressively higher overall scores in three meets last week culminating in a 751.4200 at their Lakewood Viking CheerFest Friday, finishing tops among the five varsity teams competing.
“This season has been going really well for us so far,” Lakewood junior flyer Jess Hawkins said. “We started in November, so we have had a lot of practice time. Our first competition wasn't until January, so we had more time to perfect more difficult stunts and tumbling. That has really helped us get focused and prepare. Everyone has just been focused and on for competition days for the most part. Everybody doing their job when it needs to be done has been really helpful for us.”
A 230.8 in round one and a 216.120 in round two Friday were the Vikings' highest scores of the season in those two opening rounds. The Vikings upped their round two score by nearly ten points from the Greater Lansing Activities Conference jamboree two nights earlier.
Lakewood closed the meet with a score of 304.5 in round three, just off the team's best score of the season in that round where the program has increased the demands on flyers, bases and spotters alike this winter.
“We don't hit the ground very often (in round three),” Martin said. “We don't put them down on the ground very often. They're up probably two-thirds of the cheer, the flyers are off the ground. It's a little more creative, and a little more visual than we have done in the past. We still want to add some stuff to it that we're capable of doing. They have got to clean it up. The flyers have got to do the same thing every time and the bases have got to keep their feet planted.”
Hawkins is in her third varsity season as a flyer, and said her freshman year she recalls being up in the air for only three or four stunts during a round three performance.
“Now every section we have a stunt going up and we move with people in stunts more,” Hawkins said. “Flyers just don't hit the ground as often. It keeps the cheer going smoother and faster, and it is a little bit more difficult.”
If anything goes wrong, there is no time between stunts to settle nerves or shaky muscles.
“Before, when we had set down, break, move into the next stunt, you got some time to recoup and get your brain around what was happening,” Hawkins said. “When they're right in a row like this they're just like, we have got to go. If you mess up you have to get back on. It is more fast-paced and stressful.”
She said having a few competitions in a row last week instead of just practice after practice helped settle her nerves as bit. Coach Martin said this is the toughest round three routine she has ever had her girls performing.
There is of course still work to do in every round. The Vikings had a couple missed back tucks in round two, but overall coach Martin said the skill was better than it had been earlier in the week.
“We have to throw them. We go over to the east and we don't have them, we're sunk. The girls know that,” Martin said. “They just have to step up and they have to figure it out. The kicker is when you get them at practice, they're fine. You put them out here and it's mental.”
Mason had the second best score at the five-team competition, finishing with 736.72 points. The Bulldogs were about nine points better than the Vikings in round three, but Lakewood had a more than 20-point lead heading into the last round.
Gobles was third with a score of 661.04, ahead of West Catholic 643.12 and Maple Valley 578.70.
The Maple Valley girls scored a 183.10 in round one, 141.70 in round two and 253.90 in round three.
Lakewood opened the Greater Lansing Activities Conference season by winning the conference jamboree hosted by the Lions last Wednesday, outscoring the hosts 744.56 to 613.60 at the top of the standings.
Lakewood had the top score of each round, scoring a 230.40 in round one, a 207.46 in round two and a 306.70 in round three.
Maple Valley narrowly edged Webberville for second place. The Webberville girls scored 608.30 points.
Maple Valley was the only team other than Lakewood to score more than 200 points in round one, earning a score of 201.60. A ten-point deduction in round two dropped the Lions down to a score of 162.50 in that round, and then they closed the day with a 249.50 in round three.
Webberville had a couple of deductions of its own, 16 points worth in round three, to drop it behind the Lions.
Leslie was fourth with 593.44 points, ahead of Stockbridge 585.40 and Perry 537.90.