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Four area high schools will compete Saturday in the first-ever Kentucky High School Athletic Association state cheerleading competition.
Elizabethtown, LaRue County, North Hardin and Central Hardin high schools each won in their divisions Saturday during 5th Region competition. They advance to the state competition at E.A. Diddle Arena at Western Kentucky University.
Seven teams competed this weekend in the regional competition at Central Hardin High School. Of those, only LaRue County and Hart County high schools were competing in the same division, meaning the remaining schools advanced unless they were disqualified for a rule violation.
“There should be more people competing, but because of injuries, some teams had to drop out,” said Shauna Thompson, Central Hardin head coach.
LaRue County head coach Tara Wooden said though the Hawks cheer squad won its division, the team’s performance was not its best.
Because of injuries, the team made changes last week to its routine, she said.
“We did what we were supposed to do, but we could have done it better,” LaRue County junior Haley Dragoo said.
Central Hardin’s squad also was forced recently to make changes to its routine because of an injury. One of the team’s top performers hurt her ankle Thursday and two alternates were added, Thompson said.
“Considering we had a major injury Thursday, I think we did very well,” Thompson said.
Though North Hardin competed as a co-ed team during last year’s Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors regional competition, the Trojans had an all-female squad this year, head coach Whitney Edwards said. About half of the 15-member squad is “brand new,” she said.
Edwards said Trojan cheerleaders were “on it” during Saturday’s regional performance.
“I really think they represented our school well today with that performance,” she said.
North Hardin student Sydney Milton seconded Edwards’ enthusiasm for the Trojan performance.
“I was excited to see everything hit,” she said.
Heading into Saturday’s competition, Milton said the cheerleaders would practice longer and harder to work on cleaning up the routine for the state performance.
Despite a couple of mistakes, Elizabethtown head coach Joella Nall said the Panthers squad performed well Saturday and she expects them to perform strongly at the state competition.
Last year, the Elizabethtown cheer team was runner-up in the KAPOS state competition.
Coaches and students expressed enthusiasm for KHSAA’s recognition of cheerleading as a sport.
“I think it’s about time,” said Thompson, who is in her eighth year as head coach at Central Hardin. “I watch my kids work a long time, from June to March.”
The inclusion in KHSAA puts cheerleaders at the same level as other athletes, Edwards said. The change is one cheerleading has needed for a long time as competitiveness has increased, she added.
Asked what she says to those who argue cheerleading isn’t a sport, Dragoo said, “I tell them to come try it.”
Sarah Bennettcan be reached at (270) 505-1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.