TROY — This is Macomb Dakota cheer coach Michela Worthy’s eighth year with the program.
She said there are several things about this season’s team that she’ll remember, such as its focus, drive and determination. Worthy will also remember the team’s Macomb Area Conference Red Division and Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 district titles.
After a strong showing Feb. 22 at a MHSAA D-1 regional meet at Troy Athens, Worthy will now have another memory of the season — seeing her team advance to the D-1 state finals. The Cougars placed fourth at the regional, just making the cut and advancing to the state finals, which take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at The Delta Plex in Grand Rapids.
Dakota will compete against seven other teams for a state title this weekend. This is the Cougars’ first trip to the MHSAA state finals. Dakota last qualified for the state finals in 2004, when the finals were contested in the Michigan Cheerleading Coaches Association format.
“After I wiped away the tears of joy and excitement, I told (the team) how proud of them I was,” Worthy said. “They left it all on the mat, just like I asked them to.”
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek won the regional. Troy Athens and Southgate Anderson finished second and third, respectively. Those three squads, along with East Kentwood, Grandville, Hartland, Lake Orion and Dakota, make up the field for the D-1 state finals.
Worthy said Dakota definitely earned this trip to the state finals. She said the group set some goals at the outset of the season, which included winning division and district titles. Making the state finals was also a goal, Worthy said.
“To get to the state finals is huge,” Worthy said. “We are realizing our goals because of the drive, focus and determination of the athletes in our program, the support of the Dakota athletic department, the support of the athletes’ families, and the consistency in coaching.
“I feel that, because of the accomplishments of this team, the Dakota cheer program will be respected in the community for the hard work of these athletes.”
That includes major contributions from the seniors, including Heather Colby, Reily Malczewski, Alexandra Camaj and Jessica Wuolukka. She said the seniors have led by example, showing a strong work ethic and expecting the same from everyone else on the squad.
“When it was announced that the top four teams at the regional go to the state finals, I thought (the seniors) would jump out of their skin,” Worthy said. “The announcement that the team finished fourth was met with such emotion. The entire team was crying and hugging, but the seniors were the most emotional of the group.”
Worthy said no changes will be made in terms of preparation this week. She said she does have a few tricks up her sleeve, though.
“Our theme this year is, ‘Challenge excepted,’” Worthy said. “I will continue to challenge (the team) to do its best and, like I always say, leave it on the mat.”