The Plymouth native and Grand Valley State graduate is excited about the potential of her squad, despite it featuring just two seniors.
“I’m expecting one of the best years we’ve had in awhile,” James said. “We’re doing (stunts) that few at Grand Haven have ever done. I expect us to be scoring 100 points higher than we were last year.”
James said one of her most promising team members is senior Kaisey Collins, who has eight years of experience between competitive and sideline cheerleading.
Grand Haven’s other returning senior is Ashley Markle.
James also has high expectations for newcomer Sarah Bialowas, a freshman who is already capable of executing a double twist in the air.
“We’re really strong with the underclassmen,” James said. “We have a good group of sophomores, which gets me excited about the future of the program.”
Other members of Grand Haven’s 19-person squad are, Jessica Johnson, Kassie Nelson, Ryann Scott, Raquel Tambora, Hayley Wills, Katelyn Hansen, Jayde Norman, Alexa Buitendyk, Tiyana Smallegan, Madison Whiting, Sarah Stegall, Kelsie Belter, Lauren Klouw, Kelsey Bialowas, Khloe Edsen, and Lexis Heinman.
The Bucs’ first competition will be held on Dec. 19. Mona Shores will host the event, but the competition will be held at L.C. Walker Arena in Muskegon.
James said the Bucs hope to finish near the top of the O-K Red, but with four teams earning a spot in the preseason state rankings, the competition will be fierce.
“It will be good motivation to see where we need to get,” James said.
SL SQUAD FEATURES NO SENIORS
Spring Lake’s competitive cheer team won’t have an opportunity to add to its title as back-to-back champions in the Lakes Eight Conference.
Due to a few schools dropping the sport, there are not enough competing members to form a league this winter.
“We still have districts to shoot for,” said Spring Lake coach Katie Bowen, who is entering her eighth season at the school. “We also have seven competitions this year, which will give the girls an opportunity to learn a lot more.”
Bowen faces a challenge of leading a very young squad. The Lakers have only two girls returning from last season and feature no seniors on their roster. The returning Lakers are Stephanie Sabo and Marina Samp, who are both juniors.
“Some of the girls have never cheered before,” Bowen said. “We’re starting fresh this year, but these girls have already shown a lot of potential.”
Others on the squad are juniors Maddie Parker, Padley Gallagher, Erin Vargo and Lauren McDowell; sophomores Brooke Detwiller and Sabrina Hochhuth; and freshmen Mila Geldersma, Taylor Venema, Emma France, and Michaela Kerkstra.
The Lakers open their season on Saturday at the Comstock Park Invitational. Their home-opener will be Jan. 25 against Cedar Springs, Kenowa Hills, Mona Shores and Fruitport.
Bowen will be assisted by James Morton, a former cheerleader at Grand Valley State University.