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Country singer Carrie Underwood’s song “The Champion,” featuring rapper Ludacris, blared through the speakers at Westminster High School as Liberty’s varsity fall cheerleading squad celebrated.

The Lions took first place in the Carroll County Cheerleading Championships on Saturday with 120.9 points. Century was second with 117.05, and Westminster was third with 116.9.

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The girls received their gold medals from Michael Duffy, Carroll’s supervisor of athletics, and posed for pictures with their teammates, family members, and friends.

“I’ve been doing high school cheer for two years now and this is my first year winning anything,” said senior Elizabeth Pearce. “When we walked off the mat we were a little nervous, but when the announcer said our name, relief went through my body.”

All seven county schools were represented in the event, and teams are judged on various qualities including stunt work, pyramid formation, tosses, and technique. The top 40 percent of all Maryland teams earn a trip to the state semifinals at Harford Community College on Nov. 2.

Morgan Amend, a 2010 Liberty grad, coaches the Lions, and said this victory “solidified” the team’s hard work. The Lions practice three days a week for two-and-a-half hours each day, and Amend said it’s less than what most teams will do.

“My philosophy is if it’s less, then they have to work harder, so we have to make these practices count because they don't have tomorrow to just do it again,” Amend said. “They have to make those practices count every single time.

“They show up, they get done what they have to get done, they definitely work really hard as a team, they support each other 100% so it felt really good to win because they’re a family.”

Liberty won its first state title in program history at the fall championships in 2015, and the Lions captured their first county title since 1998 at the winter championships in January of 2016, beating out two-time reigning champion Westminster.

The Lions edged the Owls at the fall championships in 2017 by .15 points, and the Owls got a little revenge on their home floor last fall.

The results were announced Saturday at the conclusion of the senior recognition ceremony, where the senior cheerleaders from each squad were acknowledged and many received bouquets of flowers. Every team huddled together in circles on the Owls’ gymnasium floor anxiously awaiting the results.

“This is my second time winning counties, and it felt better this year because we didn’t know it was going to happen,” said junior Mia Casey. “Before we weren’t confident we were going to win, but this year we were excited and we knew it was close.”

Westminster’s junior varsity squad won with 113.1 points, Liberty was second with 108.3, and Manchester Valley came in third with 107.1 points.

Francis Scott Key took the mat first to start the varsity competition, and finished fourth with 112.5 points.

“We’ve had some ups and downs, and some seasons are great,” Amend said. “We’ve had winning seasons and really bad losing seasons, so it’s been up and down, but I’m glad this one is on the up.”

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