Marriotts Ridge saved the best for last at this year’s Howard County Winter Cheerleading Championships.
As the final squad to take the floor Saturday at Reservoir High School, the Mustangs delivered the top performance of the afternoon and captured the program’s second consecutive winter title with a team total of 129.7 points.
River Hill (128.95), Mt. Hebron (128.85) and Long Reach (123.35) rounded out the top four in what was one of the closest finishes in the championship’s history. It’s the first time the top three teams have been separated by less than a point.
Marriotts Ridge, which advances along with the other members of the top four to the regional meet Feb. 7 at Reservoir, took a positive approach to going last.
“It’s nice to see the other teams first, because then you know what you have to do better than and what you’re up against,” Marriotts Ridge junior Caroline Corbliss said. “We still had to perform, but it builds up your confidence.”
The ironic part was, immediately following their routine, that confidence the Mustangs had prior to stepping on the mat had mostly disappeared. A couple slip-ups had caused significant point deductions and the general feeling was that it might have cost them the title.
“We got almost nine points in deductions for safety stuff, which was pretty bad,” Corbliss said.
Marriotts Ridge senior captain Briana Feldman added, “We all had been working so hard to avoid those things that I think we all wanted more (from the routine), but we tried to stay positive. We were hoping we were strong enough in the other areas.”
Sure enough, those other areas for the Mustangs were indeed enough to carry them. Energy and enthusiasm were at the top of the list.
“Being on the floor, continuing with the routine and staying positive went a long way,” Marriotts Ridge coach Kelly O’Brien said. “The difficulty really helped us a lot too … and that’s exactly why I choreograph it that way. It gives us something to work with.”
When the final results were announced, Marriotts Ridge erupted and celebrated the program’s third winter championship in the last four years. The fact that it was so close to slipping through their fingers only made it sweeter according to the team’s captains.
“In the back, watching the routine, I think we were all just hoping we still would get a shot to go to regionals. So to win, we weren’t expecting it … we were really excited,” senior Taylor Venizelos said.
For River Hill, the second-place showing was the team’s highest finish since the winter of 2010. After failing to place inside the top four at the fall county meet, River Hill coach Kerri Finkelston says the girls really pulled together.
“We really focused on getting them to the point where they could utilize the strengths they already have,” Finkelston said. “They are such a talented group of girls, they just needed to be guided in the right direction and have that confidence.”
Mt. Hebron’s third-place finish came on the heels of winning the county title in the fall.