The Madison Southern Cheerleading team is headed to Orlando, Florida, after placing first at the Smoky Mountain Regional Competition in two divisions – Super Varsity and Medium Varsity.
The Eagles cheer squad will travel to Orlando Feb. 6-11 to compete in the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships at ESPN’s Wide World of Sport.
Coach Michelle Devere said the regional competition focused around a game-day atmosphere.
“The game-day routine is focused on what you would do at a game to get the crowd involved,” she said. “It consists of four sections: band dance, sideline, cheer, and our school fight song. The routine in general limits the skills that we perform to keep it simpler and crowd focused.
“Much emphasis is on motion placement and technique of basic cheer skills.”
The two and a half minute routine featured challenging stunts, tumbling and a pyramid said Devere.
The routine is not a simple sideline routine one might see at a high school football or basketball game. It takes discipline from each athlete to learn and execute the routine, all the while keeping up with the sports that are in season and, more importantly, keeping up with their academics.
“The execution of these skills is not easy, and it takes a lot of hard work put in practice to make everything hit and make sure we won’t have any deductions come competition day,” Devere explained. “Even though this routine is all-around more difficult skills-wise, just like the game-day routine execution is key. We want a routine that is going to hit and look clean overall.”
The team has been gearing up for the trip by conducting several fundraisers to pay for the trip.
“Our team is required to pay our way to nationals, which requires a lot of fundraising that begins at the beginning of the season,” the coach said. “We have many fundraisers throughout the year, and this past month has been packed full of them.”
With the national event just a few weeks away, Devere said the team is fine turning its routine.
“This squad is going to focus on the execution of our skills, the motion placement, and getting them as tight as possible and making sure to encourage each other to be the best we can be,” she said. “We have some practices scheduled with experts in cheer such as Josh McCurdy from VROC and Eastern Kentucky University coaches.”
Devere said a team doesn’t qualify for nationals by happenstance. It takes commitment from each of the 26 members.
“When we’re preparing for nationals, our team has to be all in,” she explained. “National champions are made during practice.
“You have to want it with everything in you to do the best we possibly can. The girls have to be focused at practice and make sure they are there at every practice working hard until they get everything the way it needs to be. Competitive cheer is a sport where if you have one person missing, it can set the entire team back.”
While tumbling, pyramids, and other acrobatic-type skills are needed to compete, perhaps the most important aspect of getting to this level is the balancing act between practicing for the competition, cheering at games, and maintaining the grades in the classroom.
“These ladies are athletes and push their bodies; they don’t just lift weights, they lift people,” she explained. “What I am most proud of them for is for being able to set differences aside and come together as a team for what is best for the team.
“There are many days when we must practice after school and then come straight to cheer a basketball game. They do all of this and keep up with their grades.”