Competition cheer teams win states for third consecutive year

Senior Lexi Yaffe and sophomore Whitney Fahs brace senior Mia Diffley in a ball-back stunt pyramid in the Traditional Building routine Feb. 26.
(Photo by Sydney Tyler)

The competition cheer teams placed first in two different events after competing in the state championships for the third year in a row Saturday, Feb. 26.

Junior Keira Murray explained within the cheer squad, there are two teams: Traditional and Game Day. Traditional includes more difficult stunts and tumbling, while Game Day focuses on getting the crowd engaged, she explained.

The Traditional team won by 34 points, while the Game Day team won by 40 points over St. Francis DeSales High School.

In the Traditional routine, there is a music section with stunt elites, a pyramid, standing tumbling, running tumbling and dance, and a separate cheer section. In Game Day, there is a band dance, a sideline, a cheer and a fight song, Head Coach Brooke Wojcik explained.

Teams are judged based on difficulty, execution and the overall impression left on the judges. This year, the teams’ main focus was on upgrading stunts, where most points are earned, Wojcik said.

Wojcik said that going to states differed this year because they were able to compete in person for the first time since 2020.

“With the competition being online last year, it was hard to keep the energy up without an audience,” Wojcik said. “It was harder than expected, but with being in person, it’s easier to pump yourself up.”

Preparing for an in-person competition was a big change for the team, senior captain Kara Kilbourne said.

“This year, you only have one shot to do it correctly, so that adds a little bit more stress, especially for the younger people,” Kilbourne explained.

Kilbourne added that their team’s overall skill level and technique has improved since winning their last two state titles in 2019 and 2020.

“We definitely are stronger in our tumbling, and we have gained a lot more freshmen this year,” she said.

The team has also done a considerable amount of preparation, with practices lasting around two to three hours, four times a week, then every day closer to the competition, Murray explained.

The team also worked out in the weight room every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour before practices, Kilbourne said.

Wojcik added that the team owes a lot of their success to strength and conditioning coach Jesse Padgett, who created workout routines to improve skills and strength.

“Since we started working with him in 2020, I have been blown away by how much we have advanced our skills,” Wojcik said.

Freshman Annabelle Mugler said that while the team sacrificed a lot of time to make it to states, it was worth it.

“We have a lot of practice for competition, but it’s so worth it because we get to go out there and have fun,” she said.

Mugler said she felt confident going into the competition despite having never competed in person for high school cheer before.

Mugler was not the only cheerleader to experience the in-person state competition for the first time, Wojcik added.

“We competed with seven freshmen on our teams this year,” she said. “Some of those kids have never competed in person before.”

Additionally, the team’s biggest strength this season was teamwork, trust and a positive attitude, Kilbourne said.

“Everybody needs to trust each other for the stunts to work,” she said. “For example, the flyers need to trust the backspots that they won’t fall.”

The leadership from the seniors and captains helped to build trust, Wojcik said.

“I think having the seniors really pushes the underclassmen and gives them someone to look up to because they know what it’s like to win in person,” she explained.

Because the team had a target on their back, Wojcik explained they had to make harder routines to defend their state title.

“[The opposing teams] know that we are going to come out strong, but I think that it’s important to us to keep improving each year,” she said.

The team also faced challenges leading up to states, Wojcik said.

Wojcik explained that the team struggled when a cheerleader suffered an injury a week and a half before states, as well as when a member had to quarantine due to COVID-19 the Sunday before competition.

“Luckily, we have had three alternatives who attended all of our practices and know the routines well,” she said.

Despite making major rearrangements days before states, the girls pulled through, Wojcik said.

“I am so proud of this team’s ability to roll with the punches and make it work no matter what,” she said. “I think it shows so much dedication and maturity.”

Wojcik said that an additional challenge was that the team was the first to compete in their division. When a team is first, judges can give that team a lower score in order to compare to the following teams, placing them at a disadvantage, she explained.

Wojcik also said the team will take hits next year as nine seniors are graduating.

“I think losing them is such a big loss, but I think the upcoming classes will really step up to keep the tradition,” she stated.

Wojcik said she looks forward to next season and is confident in the underclassmen’s ability to step up and take the lead.

“I think we have the skill to keep winning, and I feel like we are in a good place for next year,” she said.

Wojcik also said she wanted to address the misconception that the cheer team’s titles were an easy win.

“I hope people start to put some respect on our name,” she said. “It’s not easy at all. We just happen to be pretty good at what we do.”

Overall, the team is happy with the outcome and is excited for the future, Wojcik said.

“We went out and hit difficult routines the best we could and we’re proud of what we put on the floor,” she said.