COAL TOWNSHIP — Cheerleading squads from Shamokin, Southern Columbia, Milton and Williamsport brought home gold at the District 4 Competitive Spirit Championship Saturday afternoon at Shamokin Area Middle/High School.
The squads scored the highest in their respective division and will advance to the seventh annual Competitive Spirit Championships next Friday and Saturday at the Giant Center in Hershey. They will be joined by Warrior Run, who achieved the next highest score of all remaining teams.
Shamokin earned its first district title in program history and Milton, Southern Columbia and Williamsport defended theirs. Warrior Run will make its return to the championships after not qualifying last year. Sugar Valley, Troy, Hughesville, Montoursville and Canton ended their seasons.
Squads had 2 1⁄2 minutes to perform a cheer and a music routine. Three judges calculated a final score based on difficultly and execution.
The Indians scored 217.6 in large varsity (21 members and over), besting the Warriors (212.1) and Spartans (152.05). Head coach Tammy Rhodes said she saw two small mistakes in the Indians’ performance, but was overall pleased.
“It’s exciting, it’s very exciting for them. I am happy for them, especially the seniors,” Rhodes said after handing out gold medals. “They did well.”
Rhodes said she does not plan to change the routine, describing the squads that advance to the final round at states as amazing. She said her squad intends to have fun at states and take the experience in.
“If they just stick everything perfect at states — that’s all we can ask for,” Rhodes said.
Southern Columbia scored a competition-high 258.1 in small varsity (no more than 15 members), overpowering Troy (164.5) and Sugar Valley (76.3), which only had five members. The Tigers, led by coach Kenda Roth, look to improve on their 13th-place finish last year at Hershey.
Roth said it may have been nerves that led to a few minor flaws on the mat at Shamokin, adding that some parts of the routine need to be polished before states.
“I thought they did a good job. We obviously did not have a perfect routine. So, we get this one out of the way and maybe it will be better next week,” she said. “It’s going to be a lot harder in Hershey, then it is here. It’s hard to compete against a 6A school that has 1,500 girls.”
The veteran coach praised the commitment level of the squad, noting that some members participate in a second sport or are in her all-star cheer program.
“They just sort of eat, sleep and breathe cheerleading,” she commented.
Milton claimed their seventh straight district title, achieving a score of 230.1 in medium varsity (16 to 20 members), the second highest of all squads competing. Warrior Run was the runner-up in the division with a score of 213.7, just 1.6 points higher than large varsity runner-up Montoursville.
The Black Panthers had a slight music miscue between the cheer and music portions of the routine, but the mistake did not appear to effect the energy of the performance.
“I thought it was really going to mess them up, but they stayed focus and kept their heads on. I was really pleased with that,” said Traci Ferguson, coach of the squad for the past 25 seasons. “I felt that they finished strong. There were two little mishaps, but those are fixable things.”
After dropping to small varsity last year because of injuries and losing to Southern Columbia, Warrior Run was able to increase the number of cheerleaders and improve their score by more than 55 points.
Defenders’ coach Leighanne Crawford was at a loss of words when attempting to describe how proud she was of the squad and their resilience through multiple adversities.
“I was pretty impressed, because our practices have been a living nightmare the past few weeks,” Crawford said. “We had to change parts of the routine because one of our cheerleaders was in a bad accident and then we had girls who went to London for cheerleading. There’s no words to describe how amazing this is.”
Williamsport claimed the district title in co-ed varsity, scoring 214.3. The runner-up was Canton with a score of 175.8.
Warriors’ head coach Marcie Jennings commended four-year senior Destiney Fillhart, as well as two-year seniors MiKayla Dietrich and Tabitha Metzger.
“Destiney has really been our go-to leader, but the other two have really stepped up and taken a leadership role. But, for the most part, Destiney is the leader of the team,” Jennings said.
Crawford, who has coached Canton for the past 19 years, said the team worked hard preparing for Saturday’s competition and made marked improvements throughout the season, such as adding more tumbling to the performance.
“I was very happy with the performance that they gave,” Crawford commented.
Speaking about the future of the program, Crawford said, “Our numbers are a little low. I would like to get our numbers increased and try to get more students interested in competition cheer. So, that’s a struggle for us, right now. But, it’s just looking up from here.”