By Madison Gaston
Oak Hall’s competitive cheerleading team works countless hours each week practicing for this year’s competition season, which paid off at yesterday’s regional meet. The team placed third, thus solidifying a spot at the state championship on Feb. 1 at the O’Connell Center at the University of Florida.
Unlike the winter season of cheer, the athletes on the competitive team must perform a challenging routine in front of judges to show their athleticism and skill. During the regional and state meets, the competition team must outshine the other large all-girl non-tumbling teams in order to claim victory. Each 2.5 minute routine is divided into different skills throughout: cheer, elite stunts, jumps, pyramid, and dance. “It has taken two months and we are still making changes while increasing difficulty as our skills progress,” said cheer captain Mason Johnson.
The competitive cheerleading team consists of 22 varsity cheerleaders ranging from sixth graders to seniors. This second-year team is lead by head coach Kelley Thorp, Kaitlyn Hill as assistant coach, and Kathryn Wishart as student-coach. The girls practice four days a week from 4:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. to master the stunts and dance incorporated in each routine. The team consists of four stunt groups, each having one flyer, two bases, and one back spot. Typically, the girls start each practice by warming up and stretching, then running through counts, working on cheer, stunting, jumping, and ending with pyramid and dance. “Competitive cheer is very different than winter cheer because it requires more skill and athleticism,” noted senior Mary Madelyn Broom. “I also appreciate that it is a sport where we get to showcase our talent and skills to an audience versus just spiriting for other sports’ games,” she continued.
In addition, the competitive cheer team go to cheerleading camp in the summer. This past summer, Oak Hall competitive cheerleading team members Elizabeth Olcese, Mason Johnson, Veronika Schmalfuss, and Kathryn Wishart were selected as UCA All-American Cheerleaders, giving the girls the opportunity to perform in the 2020 London New Year’s Day Parade.