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The Grant County High School varsity cheerleaders set a goal at the beginning of the season to return to state as region champions and they didn’t dissapoint.
They were ready, focused and set to perform when a fire alarm went off, but after a delay, they were still anxious to perform.
The cheerleaders could have used the alarm as an excuse if they did not reach their goal, but instead used it to prepare themselves for their best performance of the year, earning the eighth region championship for the second straight year with a score of 278 out of 300 at Shelby County.
“They were so ready on the back of the mat waiting to be announced and when the fire alarm went off, I thought you’ve got to be kidding me,” coach Leigh Simpson said. “I was afraid that they would sit and tighten up or they would lose focus. It took a little bit of talking to them before, but they got their heads back on straight and did better than I could have asked for. I’m so proud of them. They had every chance to get distracted or discouraged, but they did not forget why they were here or what they had to do.”
“It was a little hectic, but then when we took the mat, it was our time to shine and we weren’t leaving anything on the mat,” senior Karla Noel said. “We showed the judges we were confident and can repeat. It’s amazing. There’s not many words that I can say because I think we’ve helped set the standards for the program.”
For the first time in the program’s history, the cheerleaders have earned back-to-back region championships. After earning the chance to compete on the national stage with their performance at the Jingle Bell Classic, the girls set their sights on repeating at region, tightening up their routine and preparing to wow the judges. Now, they will prepare for state, held at Western Kentucky University on Feb. 14.
“I’m really excited, because we did our best,” senior Chelsey Popp said. “We stuck everything and went out there with positive attitudes. We deserve it. We worked our butts off for this. We can’t slack at all now. We can’t do anything stupid before state. We need to continue working hard and practicing. I’m so excited. I can’t wait. The seniors have been together for a long time. We all came and dominated together.“
“We worked for this for a long time,” Simpson said. “Their score is where it needs to be. I teach them it’s not about beating people. It’s about pride and doing your very best. I can assure you their score is where it needs to be, which makes me so proud because for two years in a row, we’ve kept that same standard, that same level. They were so much fun to watch. Their faces, their enthusiasm, their tumbling was so good and their stunting was solid. I couldn’t have asked for anything else.”
The cheerleaders were buoyed by their family and friends who made the trip, filling two sections of stands and energizing the girls on their way to the region championship.
“It makes the biggest difference for the girls,” Simpson said. “That’s the difference between a practice and competition. They don’t respond to the judges. They respond to their fans and their parents screaming in the stands. They feed off their energy and we’re so lucky to have that.”
The junior varsity cheerleaders were also hoping to repeat as region champs, but fell four points short of meeting their goal, despite a strong performance. The junior varsity earned a score of 264.7.
“I think that my girls came out and did the absolute best they could,” coach Melissa Ryan said. “They have never looked better. I’m so proud of them. They’ve come leaps and bounds.”
While the junior varsity won’t be competing at state, they still have work to do to prepare for the Americheer National Competition in Orlando.
“We are focusing on tumbling,” Ryan said. “That’s going to be our big thing. I strongly believe that’s the only thing that kept us from first place at the regional competition. We’re going to add a little bit more difficulty to the routine. The girls are ready to go at it and they’re excited. They want it.”
Several Grant County cheerleaders were also recognized for their academic achievement. Brandee Terrell, Miranda Cleveland, Katelyn Blackburn, Brittany Butler, Kari Edmondson, Becca Saylor, Briana Shandel, Emily Wright, Chelsea Young, Karen Mann, Courtney Jaconette and Tiffany Horn were recognized for having a 3.5 or better GPA. Simpson was also recognized for having 10 years of coaching service.