By Randy Whalen
Since Marist opened its doors to girls in the fall of 2002, the RedHawks have found much success in female athletics.
A pair of state titles and a trio of trophies in softball in six trips to state, and the 2017 and 2018 back-to-back state volleyball state championships are indicative of that.
But there’s another girl’s sport the RedHawks are very successful at. That’s cheerleading, in which they finished runner-up this season in the IHSA Large School State Finals for the second straight year.
The state Competitive Cheerleading Finals were held Feb. 1 and 2 at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington.
It was the fourth state cheer trophy for the RedHawks, who also placed third in 2012 and second in 2013.
“It feels incredible and just as sweet as last year,” Marist coach Jordan Miller said. “Knowing what it was going to take from the prior year really set the tone for all of our practices, mindset, and at competitions. It truly pushed us to be the best version of ourselves.
“The girls knew that the climb to the top was difficult, but staying at the top was going to be a true test of character. We are truly humbled to be on the podium back to back and are grateful to everyone that supported us throughout our entire season. The teams on the podium with us are great programs with lots of tradition and history as well.”
Lincoln-Way East finished with a score of 91.56, edging Marist (90.57) to capture its fourth state title in the past six seasons. Stevenson (90.42) was third and Lincoln-Way West (89.87) was fourth.
In the preliminary round, the RedHawks (86.71) were seventh. But those scores don’t carry over and the disappointing performance was actually a blessing in disguise.
“We did have a few mental/physical errors on Friday in prelims, which were obviously not our goal,” Miller said. “But in hindsight, I think it fueled the team’s fire for success on Saturday.”
Miller said the team had a meeting the morning of finals at which coaches reminded the girls of their love for each other, and their love for the sport.
“Our goal was to show that through our performance in the State Finals,” she added. “We know that energy is contagious, so we needed to focus on having fun and executing our routine and not focus on winning or the outcome. I reminded them that our focus should be on doing what we as a team do best and hitting our routine solid. Focusing on those things was truly the game-changer.”
A dozen seniors will graduate from this season’s squad, but 12 underclassmen were also on the team.
“I expect to have a majority of returners on next year’s squad,” Miller said. “We will just have to continue doing what we do best and focusing on ourselves and being the best we can in every Rubric category. We know we are going to have to push just as hard next year if not harder to recreate or trump the past two seasons as The IHSA Large Varsity State Runner-Up to gain a championship.
The 12 senior members on this seasons team were Jhadia Adams, Maggie Bojan, Elizabeth Davidson, Mia DeMonica, Shannon Doyle, Makenna Farrelly, Anna Frieling, Annie O’Mara, Lilly Smith, Cailin Stevens, Molly Sullivan and Haley Tracy. The juniors were Jordan Davis, Emily Egan, Myah Gillespie, Molly E. Mongan, and Caitlin Richter. Sophomores Kelly Arvesen, Mattingly Malczewski, Ella McGrath and Delaney Ryan, along with freshmen Laila Dorsey, Eva Quebbeman and Sophia Sikorski made up the rest of the roster. The assistant coaches are Kelly Harrigan, Tracey Rewers and Antonia Steinmiller.
Shepard 8th in Co-Ed Division
Also making the final day was Shepard. The Astros finished eighth in the Co-Ed Division of the IHSA Competitive Cheerleading Finals.
“We finished a historical season as a Top 10 team in the state once again,” Shepard coach Nicole Staehlin said. “This team did not place below second all season in their regular competitions and then finished eighth at the IHSA State Finals. This is the sixth consecutive year the team has qualified for state, and the 20th time in the past 23 years.”
Belvidere North (96.63), which opened as a school in the fall of 2007, won its third straight co-ed title by more than three points. It was the fourth consecutive trophy for the Blue Thunder, who placed second in the same division in 2016. Plainfield South (93.43) was second, Grant (93.24) took third and South Elgin (91.77) was fourth.
“We have made it to finals three times in the four years I have been the head coach, and I feel very accomplished and lucky to have the opportunity to work with this program,” said Staehlin, who is a 2005 Shepard graduate. “Shepard cheerleading has been one of the top teams in the area for over 20 years… As a Shepard cheerleading alum, it was very important for me to continue [former coach Colleen] Sands’s traditions and expectations when I took over the program. This program created so many lifelong memories and taught me what it means to be a dedicated athlete.”
The members of the Shepard cheerleading team were Nick Adkins, Chloe Ayres, Devinee Bowen, Mia Cisneros, Jaiden Constantino, Allison Coyle, Gianna DeLord, Mitchell Elzinga, Jenny Hernandez, Jordyn Johnson, Katie Justin, Juliana Knies, Rachel Lappano, Kira Longawa, Alexia Maravilla, Skylar Mcgrath, Gianna Moreno, Abigail Notter, Martavious Owten, Marissa Sokolowski, Terry Stonitsch, Macaela Welch and Molly Wiercigroch.
Tough Day for Eagles
For Sandburg, which competed in the Large School Division, there was shock and heartbreak.
The Eagles have been a staple at the state finals since its inception in the 2005-06 season. Making their 14th straight state appearance, they expected to make the Top 10 out of the preliminaries, just as they had every other season. Then they hoped to be in the running for another state trophy to add to the three championships and trio of thirds.
But when the Top 10 were called out of the preliminary round, Sandburg was not among them. The Eagles (83.23) placed 15th of 25 teams.
“We were incredibly proud of the kid’s performance in prelims,” Sandburg coach Mike Bruce said. “It was by far our best performance of the year. We have been inconsistent this year with injuries and changes in the routine, and it was exciting to see the kids perform so well in such a big moment.
The Eagles’ “raw” score would have made them fifth and guaranteed a spot in the finals for the 14th year in a row, but judges deducted five points for how part of Sandburg’s pyramid was performed.
“Yes, it was the same pyramid that we performed at the [SouthWest Suburban] Conference and sectionals,” Bruce said. “It was an extremely difficult situation to handle given the circumstances, but I applaud our kids for how they conducted themselves during the announcement of the Top 10 and how they continued to handle themselves in the days that followed.
“While we are disappointed with how things ended, we are proud of our kids’ performance [on that] weekend and their perseverance throughout the season.”
The members of the Eagles team were Alyssa Benard, Melanie Cescato, Carlee Cook, Whitney Davis, Mia Garza, Bre Gasparas, Stephanie Gaspardo, Brittany Gerhard, Gabby Gianakas, Kennedy Harris, Lindsay Hayes, Alex Henninger, Kylie Kehlert, Andrea Kielbowicz, Meghan McCurdy, Lily Nevin, Brooke Paradowski, Anna Piacente, Maddie Riebel, Caroline Schmidt, Nicole Tatar and Taylor Villa.
Reavis edged out of final round
In the Co-Ed Division, Reavis (82.06) was making its third straight appearance and placed 13th in the prelims. The Rams finished less than a point out of the Top 10 for their highest placement ever. Reavis finished 21st in 2007, 14th in 2016 and 18th in 2017.
The Rams cheerleaders listed in the IHSA program were Jamie Booe, Jenna Cardona, Mariah Carmona, Jersey Deir, Jimmy Godfrey, Diana Kobylarczyk, Natalia Supan-Lobrono, Natalie Longoria, Ricky Longoria, Jazmine Macias, Cameron Makswiejz, Cami Marr, Dave Pasana, Mikala Ramirez, Jill Rapp, Kassy Salarzar, Megan Szkirpan, Liz Trujillo and Sebastian Witkowski. The head coach is Samantha Ippolito, and the assistant coaches are Anna Harney and Carly Mannix.
Mustangs fall in prelims
In the Medium School Division, Evergreen Park (73.59) placed 21st in the preliminary round. It was the second straight state appearance for the Mustangs, who qualified for the first four state tournaments with a high finish of eighth in the Medium Division in 2008. Evergreen was 24th in co-ed in 2017-18 before switching back to the Medium Division this year.
The Evergreen Park team members listed in the IHSA program were Shakari Blackmon, Katara Brown, Fatou Diallo, Mary Grace Kane, Brooklynn Hohman, Courtney Hoover, Savannah Judy, Marina Martinez, Shannon Morrison, Lorenzo Preston, Catherine Schaffrath, Madison Sims, Tyler Smith, Andre Sykes, Antowan Underdue, Alex Watts, Sean Wilkinson and Rachel Witte. The head coach is Rachael Mayo, and the assistant coaches are Julianne Sheehy and Sara Torres.