Last Wednesday was a busy day for the Morgan County High School cheerleaders. With the first pep rally of the year, the first football game of the season, and the beginning of the competition cheerleading season all coming up within the next few days, there was a lot of excitement in the air.
Cheerleading coaches Christen Seabolt and Amanda Pickles stood in front of the varsity squad, watching their every move to make sure that they all stayed together throughout the entire routine. Nearby, Denise Frost was also busy working with the junior varsity spirit cheerleading team.
Mrs. Seabolt, who is a fourth grade teacher at the elementary school and works mainly with the varsity spirit cheerleaders described the essence of spirit cheerleading, “Spirit is more about exactly what it says: pumping up the fans and pumping up the school.”
The girls practiced routines that they would be performing in front of the entire school assembly just a few days later during the first pep rally of the year. Seabolt keeps a careful eye on the routine, saying that, “our focus at practice is making sure our motions are sharp, that our voices are loud and can be heard in the stadium, and that everyone is together.”
Seabolt emphasized the rigorous nature of preparing for all of the cheerleading events. “It is a sport. The girls are athletes, and I think that is the main thing. We live in the gym.”
She clarified the main difference between spirit cheerleading and competition cheerleading. “Competition is a lot more intense in terms of hitting your stunts. Spirit, to me, is more about the support.”
Since Seabolt works predominantly with the spirit cheerleading squad, she was able to describe in greater detail some of the other elements of spirit cheerleading.
“We try to do everything we can in the community and let people know that we’re willing to do anything.”
In addition to cheering at pep rallies and most of the sporting events throughout the year, the spirit cheerleading squad volunteers for several benefits. Some of the most recent community service projects have included the Back-to-School Rally at the hospital that took place on Aug. 4 and the Kiddie Camp that takes place during the summer.
Seabolt explained what takes place at the Kiddie Camp. “We have (girls from) grades pre-K through fifth and all week we have a camp.” The cheerleaders teach about 100 girls cheers and chants throughout the week and help them to prepare routines, which are performed for the children’s parents on the last day of the camp.
One of the cheerleading captains for the spirit squad, Peyton Nunn, said that, “Kiddie Camp is great because we get to train the future cheerleaders of Morgan County, as well as raise money for the program.”
Immediately after the end of the spirit cheerleading practice, the competition cheerleading practice began with practicing some of the stunts and pyramids that they will incorporate into their routines and perform during the meets during the season.
Amanda Pickles, fifth grade teacher at MCES, leads the competition cheerleaders along with Brittany Duvall, the team’s community coach. Mrs. Pickles described the way the competition cheerleading schedule is designed.
The competition season starts at the beginning of September. Once the season begins, the team is allowed to go to six competitions before regional and state championships, which take place early in November. Unlike other sports seasons, however, the first six competitions do not rank the teams in terms of other teams in the division.
“Basically, you are just going for practice,” explains Pickles. “You could get last place in every competition you go to, and get first place at region… or vice versa. Our main goal is to get ready for region.”
Each school’s competition team is allowed to choose which competitions they compete in before region championships. “We try to go to ones that are pretty close and we try to look at ones that are going to have AAA teams, so that we have somebody to compete against.”
The MCHS competition cheerleaders will host their own competition this year on Sept. 15. Twenty-seven other schools are expected to attend, which will bring the total number of cheerleaders that will be present to around 500.
Pickles hopes that the competition will attract a lot of supporters for the school. “It’s one of our really big fundraisers, but it’s also a great way to get Morgan County out there, and let them see our facilities.”
In terms of the competitions themselves and the requirements for the teams, Pickles notes, “We have individual stunts and we’ve also got pyramids that we have to perform in the competition. We also have a cheer that has to be done in the competition and we have a dance.”
Astonishingly, all of these elements have to be performed in less than two minutes and 30 seconds during the competition.
Pickles expressed her amazement over what is required of the competition cheerleading squads just in order to keep up with the competition. “The girls have to be able to tumble and we have things like back handsprings up to fulls.”
This year, the requirements at the competitions have become slightly more relaxed than they were in previous years because the level of competition between the schools has corresponded with an increase in injuries among the cheerleaders.
Because of the rigorous standards involved in competing, preparing for the season has become, “a year-round thing.” In addition to the competition cheerleading practices, which take place every day after school, most of the girls go to tumbling practices, work on stunts at the gym, participate in All-Star cheerleading in the off-season, and, of course, practice for the spirit cheerleading events.
Make sure to come out to the home and away football games to see the spirit cheerleading team supporting the team and cheering them on to victory each week during the season. And don’t miss the competition team, whose first scheduled competition will be hosted here in Morgan County on Saturday, Sept. 15.
Printed in the September 6. 2012 edition.