Conference 21 West Cheerleading Championship

Posted: October 20, 2016
By JERRY HOLSWORTH
Special to The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — It’s becoming something of a habit for Millbrook’s cheerleading squad to perform well at conference competitions. For the third straight year, the Pioneers won the Conference 21 West Cheerleading Championship, scoring a convincing win over five other teams.

There was good news, too, for two other local cheerleading squads. Both Sherando and James Wood also qualified for the Region 4A Regional Championship to be held at Rock Ridge High School on Oct. 29.

Millbrook’s score of 231 easily topped the competition. The Colonels (209.5) finished second, followed by the Warriors (194). Woodgrove (169.5) nipped Handley (168) to take fourth. Harrisonburg (105) was sixth.

One thing was certain at the meet — if the scoring had been determined by crowd noise the final standings wouldn’t have been very different. Millbrook, Wood, and Sherando had the largest and loudest crowds at the meet. The crowd played a major role in Millbrook’s brilliant performance and helped Wood and Sherando.

"I thought that our girls were incredibly energized in their performance," Millbrook coach Dawnette Jones said. "The execution of our stunts was just right on. But was well as we did, all of the other teams were amazing as well. Sometimes it’s hard to know who actually had the best performance by simple watching."

Another aspect of cheerleading also was on display. Cheerleading can be dangerous and injuries are not uncommon even for the best of teams. One Pioneer managed to perform at a championship level despite being injured during the competition.

"It was just amazing to win. We work so hard," Pioneer freshman Ellie Deegan said. "I was tumbling and I came down wrong on my ankle. It hurt, but I’m fine and I’m sure I’ll be able to compete in the next meet."

Finishing just behind the Pioneers was a performance by the Colonels that was equally exciting.

"I thought we did very well, and I couldn’t be more proud of them," James Wood coach Tracy Copley said. "Now we move on to regionals, and we’ll spend the next week-and-a-half preparing for them in the hopes we will win the title."

Copley knows that a win at regionals will be difficult.

"We need to improve on our timing and execution," Copley said. "Everything else was great tonight."

Perhaps the most surprising finish Wednesday was the strong performance by Sherando.

"We started out really low this season," Warriors coach Tom Grim said. "We finished last at the meet at Handley, but we’ve steadily improved as the season has progressed. We’ve improved by 50 points in just the last two weeks and that’s hard to do. We did a really good job tonight. I’m really proud of the girls."

Handley and Harrisonburg entered the meet with a much smaller team than other five schools.

"Two years ago, they decided to make the competition more fair. It was decided to limit the number of competitors based on the number of tumblers," Handley coach Gena Hayes said. "We have only five tumblers on our team so we were limited to just eight girls on our team. That allows us to be more competitive and keep our scores up."

Fielding only eight cheerleaders, the Judges were able to hit their stunts and danced brilliantly.

"This conference is one of the toughest in the region, if not in the state," Hayes said. "It’s always a fierce competition. All of the teams brought their ‘A game’ and it showed tonight."

The Pioneers led all schools with five selections to the All-Conference team. Local selections were: Millbrook: Kamryn Koller, Alexis Himelright, Caitlyn Faint, Casey Hassinger and Sarah Purdy; James Wood: Toni Culp, Emily McKee, Emma Hammond, Jamie Marcy; Sherando: Ashlyn Edwards, Gracie Boyd, Kayleigh Prikalis; Handley: Taya Gaither, Kaitlyn Summers.

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