Normally on the sidelines, leading spectators in getting loud for their school’s teams, cheerleaders from across the county were center stage Wednesday to see whose stunts, tumbling and areal acrobatics reigned supreme in the Howard County Cheerleading Championships.
After a disappointing ending to last year’s competition, the Atholton Raiders were able to rebound, claiming the crown with a score of 137.55.
“We worked so hard from the beginning of the season,” said senior captain Maya Schwartz following the award ceremony. “We came in with a chip on our shoulders from last year.”
Host Mt. Hebron, last year’s winner, finished less than one point behind the Raiders in second place (137.2).
“Even though we wanted to win, second is just as good as first,” said Vikings coach Holly Steinberg. “The girls worked really hard.”
The gym was packed, as territorial fans sectioned off their respective school’s cheering section, showing each squad the same spirit they exude every Friday night.
Even Glenelg’s mascot made an appearance, and was able to watch the Gladiators finish third with a score of 134.75.
In last year’s competition, the Raiders suffered bow and glasses deductions, tainting an almost perfect performance. The squad was dropped from first place to fifth, effectively ending their season, as well as a chance at regionals.
Just one year later, Raiders coach Shonte Wicks was all smiles as she watched her girls celebrate with their championship trophy.
“It’s an amazing feeling, because from the beginning of the season, we set out with a goal to come back hard and strong to redeem ourselves from last year and win counties,” she said.
“I knew this year we had to be clean and solid, and that’s what they did.”
Nearly five points separated the first place Raiders from the fourth place River Hill Hawks (132.2). The four top teams will advance to North Point High School for the South Regional Championships on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Raiders co-captain Rachel Lewis said the competition in the county was fierce, proving that her team had to work just as hard to avenge last year’s disappointing outcome.
Lewis said it was the team’s technical work, including mastering the stunts and footwork to perfection in order to claim the top prize.
“Finally having the victory we deserved is a great feeling,” she added.
Wicks said that her team is ready to take on the next challenge, saying her message to her team will be the same as it was in today’s competition.
“It is pretty much just me telling them to go out and do your job,” she said. “And that’s what they did.”
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