Coming into Thursday night's Howard County fall cheerleading championships at Marriotts Ridge, Mt. Hebron had never placed top four to qualify for the regional competition before.
And coming off of an 11th place finish — dead last — at last winter's county competition, it didn't look like the Vikings would be breaking through anytime soon.
But based on their winning routine Thursday night, this is a brand new Vikings squad.
"We've got new coaches, we've got a new routine, and we've got a new attitude," said junior captain Kiera Hearn. "From being on the team from last winter to now, it's a huge change."
Mt. Hebron's winning 133.05-point routine edged the host Mustangs (131.3) by less than two points.
"Our tumbling was really strong and so were our stunts, and our pyramid was amazing. Everything looked strong," Hearn said.
"We brought way more energy than we've ever brought out there before," senior captain Marisa Penn said.
Hearn also said that a group of strong freshmen tumblers added something "really special" to the team.
"We kind of knew in the beginning that it was going to be hard to turn the team around but they worked really, really hard," said Kathryn Bruning, who coaches the varsity alongside Holly Steinberg. "We added some more tumbling ... we upped the difficulty of our stunts.
"I know that the girls are really excited to go back to school and say that they're county champions and it will definitely help get the word out that cheerleading does take hard work."
Bruning said that when Marriotts Ridge was announced as the second place team without Mt. Hebron having been announced yet, she wasn't sure if they had finished first, or out of the top four.
"Both thoughts went through my head ... we've gotten fourth every competition that we've gone to and we just couldn't get past that and the scores were always really tight," she said. "It was just (a matter) of bringing our energy up a little bit."
Marriotts Ridge coach Kelly O'Brien said that she was happy to be going back to regions, but after winning the competiton last winter, her team's goal was obviously to repeat as champion.
"We always aim to go to regionals and we're very fortunate and happy that we are going," she said. "It was tough competition so we were all just standing out there waiting for results like everyone else ... we'll definitely increase our tumbling and maybe adjust our pyramid a little bit, but other than that I think the girls and the guy on our team have a very solid routine. I'm proud of what they've done."
Howard, which won the fall competition last year, placed third with 129.35 points, and Glenelg (127.25) rounded out the four regional qualifiers.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun