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This Saturday’s regional cheerleading competitions could set local teams on a journey to become the first Kentucky High School Athletic Association state cheerleading champions.
Four local squads are competing at the Region 5 competition at Central Hardin High School.
The decision was made last spring for KHSAA to recognize cheerleading as an athletic activity, and the organization now will run the state competition instead of the Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors.
LaRue County High School competes first at 11:10 a.m., followed by Elizabethtown High School at 11:20 a.m., North Hardin High School at 11:40 a.m. and Central Hardin at 11:50 a.m.
The divisions of the teams are different and are some of the major changes caused by the move to KHSAA. Under KAPOS, teams were divided by roster size. Now, teams are broken into either a small school division for schools with 800 students or less, or a large school division for those above that mark. Within those two divisions, teams are further divided based on squad size — small, medium, large, super large and coed.
LaRue County cheer coach Tara Wooden said she felt that change was beneficial to small schools. Elizabethtown coach Joella Nall also is happy with it.
“It gives more teams an opportunity,” she said.
However, the changes to the coed division could prove tricky for Central Hardin. The coed division used to be divided by the number of boys on the teams, but now the teams must have at least three boys but won’t be separated by the number of their male participants, Central Hardin coach Shauna Thompson said. The team, which has five boys, could compete with teams that have many more. She also doesn’t want to dip below the requirement of three males.
Central Hardin sophomore Desmond Owens said he still feels confident about their chances in the state competition, which is the last weekend in January at E.A. Diddle Arena at Western Kentucky University.
Owens admitted he was worried at first, “but over this year, we’ve gotten strong,” he said.
The state competition is about a month earlier than it has been in the past.
Beyond any changes to which the teams have had to adjust, coaches and their students are excited about receiving recognition from KHSAA.
Wooden said the athleticism of cheer has changed over the years.
“I think it really kind of recognizes what cheerleading has become in the state,” she said.
Girls on the Elizabethtown squad said the recognition made them feel more important, and senior Keagan Keen said it brought awareness to the fact the students are athletes.
“We know we are, but not everybody thinks so,” she said.
Thompson said the decision to include cheerleading in KHSAA was one she thought would happen, but was happily surprised it took place sooner than she anticipated.
“Because when I cheered in college, we were still fighting the fight,” she said.
LaRue County High needs to win in their division to advance to state. As the lone teams in their respective categories, Central Hardin, North Hardin and Elizabethtown advance as long as they aren’t disqualified on a rule violation.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.