Thornapple Kellogg's Anna Benedict and her teammates throw their arms towards the sky as the close in on the conclusion of their round two performance Friday at the TK Invitational. (Photo by Brett Bremer)
There was more thriving than just surviving for an illness-plagued Thornapple Kellogg varsity competitive cheer team at its home invitational Friday night.
The TK ladies tallied their highest scores of the season in each round, putting up a final total of 710.64 points. That was good for third place at the 11-team meet. Mason took the evening’s championship with a score 722.94 and Portage Northern was second, just ahead of the Trojans, at 711.30.
Typically the Trojans have sent ten cheerleaders to the mat in each round this winter, a requirement in round two for Division 2 squads. The team sent just five out in each round Friday after reworking the routine in the couple hours leading up to the invitational with a number of girls too sick to compete.
“It's awesome. We have had a sickness hit the team this week. It was more than I could have asked for. I am proud of them,” TK head coach Ally Clouse said. “They did more than they could with what they had. We usually have ten on the mat. We went with five today. It worked out well for us.”
Having five on the mat in round two cost the Trojans a ten-point deduction, but with a boost from five girls performing solid back tucks in the round, that wouldn’t typically be one of the team’s skills in the round, TK still managed a score of 202.54 for the round. It was a higher score than the one from the champs from Mason in the round, and only bettered by the Portage Northern girls.
The Trojans started reworking their performance plan in the practice room in the hours leading up to the meet.
“It was like four hours before the competition, we all just kind of put our (stuff) together,” Trojan senior Riley Hall said. “We were here at 2:20 getting ready. (Coach Clouse) pretty much told us what the deal was, then one girl, Kylie (Smith) just decided to throw a tuck and that is what we put in round two. We weren't going to do team tucks, and then she just did it.”
Coach Clouse has never had one of her Trojan varsity teams perform team back tucks in round two before.
“I was just thrilled with my team today, with what we did,” Clouse said. “We changed literally every round from ten to five two hours before this competition. I couldn't have asked for any more than what they did today, especially with how more than half of them are feeling. They showed up and did what they needed to do.”
TK opened the night with a score of 219.2 in round one and closed with a 288.9 in round three. The Trojans were nearly 12 points better in each of those rounds than they were at the first OK Gold/Green Conference jamboree of the season Jan. 8. Coach Clouse said ideally the Trojans will be back out to having at least ten cheerleaders on the mat in each round soon, but there will be some team discussion about what is best for the team and the future after putting out such solid scores with a handful of girls performing.
“I think we have made such amazing strides this season, like seriously, and today of all days,” Hall said. “It is awesome. Everybody was really sick going into the competition, we were all very scared to see what the outcome was. I think we all came together perfectly and all did our jobs.”
The TK girls also finished ahead of OK Gold/Green Conference foes Byron Center, Forest Hills Eastern and Zeeland West at the meet. The Trojans were set to take part in the second conference jamboree of the season last night at Hamilton. Byron Center, Hamilton and TK finished 1-2-3 at the first conference jamboree of the season – finishing within six points of each other and nearly 90 points ahead of perennial league power Forest Hills Eastern.
“The last couple years it has been Forest Hills Eastern dominating our conference,” Clouse said. “This year, Hamilton, Byron Center and us are neck and neck and probably will be for the rest of the season. It is going to be whoever shows up that day. I was just talking to another coach tonight, it is fun for the girls, it is fun to coach, it pushes to work harder, it pushes them to show up every day, not that they wouldn't before, but it keeps that competitive edge in them.”
Byron Center was fourth Friday, finishing with a total score of 660.80, ahead of Lowell 657.18, Grand Rapids Catholic Central 638.04, Forest Hills Eastern 622.60, Grant 614.94, Northview 600.68 and Zeeland West 598.28.
Mason won with a score of 221.60 in round one, 200.64 in round two and 300.70 in round three. The Bulldogs had the top round one and three scores of the meet. Portage Northern scored a 220.80 in round one, 205.40 in round two and 287.10 in round three.