By Joseph Hayes
It was a different high school sports season.
Richmond cheer coach Kelli Matthes knows it. When she looks back on the season when accolades like Friday’s come in, she recognizes that it wasn’t like every ordinary season she has coached.
It was special. Just for the fact it was able to happen at all. Especially for her senior class, which was one week away from suffering through a long, major disappointment.
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“With having ten seniors this year and this being the end for them of their career it gave them the opportunity to really leave their mark and their legacy,” Matthes said. “With everything that they have missed out on since, makes it all even more meaningful for them.”
Richmond barely got the end of its season even in, as it recorded yet another Division 3 cheer championship.
But this title would come in with just over a week to play before the sports season was officially canceled because of a pandemic.
According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association, 58 schools won one or more of the 69 Michigan High School Athletic Association team championships that were awarded during the school year, with two teams winning three or more despite the cancellation of 62 of the championship events due to the virus.
On Friday, The MHSSA distinguished its Parade of Champions list by noticing the teams that did win titles, including Richmond, which captured a Division 3 cheer title.
“Winning a championship is amazing,” Matthes said. “There is no doubt about that but reflecting back and realizing that our championship happend just days before our state was affected by Covid is still very overwhelming.
“We are very fortunate that we were able to get ours (state finals) in and very grateful that we had the opportunity to finish our season. I can’t imagine being a basketball coach, swim coach or hockey coach and having your playoffs shut down, let alone a spring sport coach who never got their season in. Makes it even more special in my eyes.
According to the MHSSA, Marquette led all schools with seven championships.
Because of the pandemic, the entire spring sports season was canceled due to the virus, as were the finals of the girls and boys basketball, ice hockey, girls gymnastics and Lower Peninsula boys swimming and diving championships.
“I have found in my career that sometimes after a major goal is achieved, or a championship is won kids today can become complacent and can think ‘Ok, we did it, now what,’” Matthes said.
“With all of this happening, kids are hungry to get started. They know not to take things for granted now and that they want their shot to keep ahold of what’s theirs. I think it’s made kids appreciate what they have even more-so and want to keep building and gaining more for themselves and their team.”
As always, Richmond will have a target on its back after another accolade, another award. But it comes with the territory of a champion and it’s a challenge they will be ready for.
“The more success you have the bigger the target is on your back,” Matthes said. It’s how you handle that as a coach and how you teach your kids to handle it. We focus on ourselves, period, end of discussion. It’s about us and how we are going to be better than we were the day before because ultimately we are trying each day to beat ourselves.
“There is no defense in competitive cheer so I can only make them be the very best they can be each practice, each run through, each competition. If we do our job correctly then we wait for the chips to fall where they may. We cannot focus on anything but what we can control, ourselves!”