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As the Grant County High School varsity cheerleaders left for Bowling Green on Feb. 13, they each tapped a sign that said, ‘Perform Like Champions.’
They had hopes of finishing in the top 10, dreaming that they could possibly finish in the top 5.
When the time came to perform, they didn’t live up to their own expectations, dropping four stunts and finishing 13th. But, according to coach Leigh Simpson, their performance was unexpected after how they had been performing recently.
“We saw the best that Kentucky had to offer and I firmly believe that my girls were right there with the rest of them. It was a great experience,” Simpson said. “We did not perform the way we did at regionals or at the pep rally 24 hours earlier. I can’t explain what happened. They weren’t nervous, winded, awe-struck or rattled. When I left them in the tunnel, they were the most calm, prepared group of girls.”
“It definitely wasn’t what we expected,” senior Paige Taylor said. “We tried so hard, but our best wasn’t put out there. It was great going back as a senior, going two years in a row because it’s never happened before. I’m proud of the team. We could have done better, but we had a great time at state and we’ll always remember it.”
After their performance, Simpson told her girls that it was a team effort and no cheerleader stood out.
“First of all, I told them not to point fingers. If they wanted to start blaming people for mistakes, they had to point the finger at every girl. It wasn’t one mistake. It was a series of mistakes,” Simpson said. “They shared their victories and they’ll share this as well.”
The girls had to deal with injuries, but didn’t use them as excuses. Tiffany Horn sprained her ankle the week before, while Brandy Begley has been dealing with a knee injury.
“You couldn’t tell Tiffany’s ankle hurt,” Simpson said. “Brandy Begley knows what state is all about and there was no way she wasn’t going to perform at her best. Injuries may have kept them just under 100 percent physically, but when you put their efforts together, they could have pulled it off.”
Although the girls wanted to perform better, Simpson made sure they knew they should be proud of making it to state.
“It’s disappointing, but I told them that our score from regionals would have put them in second place,” Simpson said. “I hope that made them hungry. I feel bad for the seniors. They worked so hard and were good leaders this year. They improved all year and it was so impressive. I don’t have any words for them.
“I’m unbelievably proud of them,” she said. “They have surpassed all expectations I have. They came together as a team and pushed themselves to do things they couldn’t do at the beginning of the year.”
Simpson and the cheerleaders wish they could have done better for all the fans that traveled to see them perform.
“We had an entire section of the stands full. We had more fans than any other team there,” Simpson said.
The cheerleaders have one more performance on Feb. 22 at NKCCA, hoping to show their best after their performance at state.
“I reminded my girls that it’s pretty important to make it clear to those squads that the Grant County they saw at state was not normal,” Simpson said. “I’m hoping the experience of state will help us push through this week. We’re not going to change a thing. We’re just going to do what I know we can do.”