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Four area high school cheer squads have advanced to next month’s state-at-large competition at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
Just six high schools participated in Saturday’s Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors Region 5 competition at Central Hardin High School. CHHS head coach Shauna Thompson said 12 to 13 high school squads usually participate.
“I don’t know why,” Thompson said. “Teams weren’t ready. Teams decided not to go.”
Elizabethtown High School placed first in the large division, topping Bardstown High School. Central Hardin, North Hardin and LaRue County high schools were uncontested in their divisions and advanced.
LaRue County coach Tara Wooden said the uncontested Hawks squad wasn’t feeling as much pressure Saturday as they normally would in a competition, and the team endured a couple stunt problems and tumbling miscues.
Preparation for the Feb. 18 state competition begins immediately, said Nikki Coates and Skylar Jeffries, seniors on CHHS’s squad. The teens said their performance Saturday was the squad’s best to date, and they’re “pumped” to proceed to state.
NHHS senior Mason Shank is one the Trojans’ five male squad members. Shank said the team had a “great feeling” Saturday after their performance and now turns its focus to state.
“We added another guy to the team recently, so we’re going to work him into our routine,” he said. “We’re going to put more difficult stunts in there, challenge our abilities.”
Central and North Hardin were the only high school co-ed teams to participate. NHHS coach Alison Langley said the presence of male athletes on the team breaks the high school cheerleading stereotype.
“Every one of them plays another sport,” Langley said about the male squad members. “I’m really excited. We’ve overcome a lot of adversity this season.”
Though cheerleading is not a recognized sport by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, parents, students and coaches at Saturday’s competition consider it one.
“It’s becoming more athletic and more challenging,” Thompson said. “I just want my kids to be recognized as athletes.”
Also a member of North Hardin’s track team, Shank said cheering requires a lot of training and conditioning, and the Trojan cheer squad is at work every day whether at practice or a game.
EHS senior Jenna Walters said the cheer season is year-long, beginning in summer and ending in spring without any real breaks.
Cathy Cross, whose daughter is a member of the CHHS squad, said cheering is more than a sport and requires a “complete and total commitment,” not just from the students but from parents.
“There’s been nights when I’ve been here until 2:30 a.m. waiting for the bus to come back from a football game,” Cross said.
Just like with every other sport, there are injuries, Thompson said, mostly from overuse. She focuses on teaching the squad good technique to prevent injuries and splits the team up when she notices the students are wearing down.
Whether her daughter is flying or standing at the base of a stunt, Cross said she’s always worried about the potential for injury.
“Really, I just worry,” she said.
Seven middle school teams also participated in Saturday’s regional competition, but these squads will not proceed to state.
James T. Alton Middle School was uncontested in the traditional division. Bluegrass Middle School won first in the small division with West Hardin Middle School placing second, and LaRue County Middle School topped East Hardin Middle School to win first place in the large division.
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or email@example.com.