Colonels become champs of cheer

October 28, 2010
By Robert Niedzwiecki
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER- Immediately after finishing their routine, members of the James Wood High School cheerleading team exploded off the mat and ran to their coaches and other team personnel, with some jumping as they doled out hugs.

With every other team yet to compete at Wednesday night's Northwestern District championship, James Wood had no idea how its performance would stand up.

But the Colonels' enthusiastic reaction - by far the most demonstrative of any team following a routine - showed everyone inside a packed Casey Gymnasium that they had just witnessed something special.

"As soon as it was done, we just had this feeling that we had done a really good job," senior captain Lauren Parrish said.

About 90 minutes later, they found out it was more than good - it was the best.

James Wood captured the district title with 242.5 points, 15 more than runner-up Sherando. Those two teams will move on to the Region II competition Nov. 6 at Orange County High School. Following a stream of hugs and pictures that followed the announcement of its victory, James Wood coach Tracy Copley said she couldn't be prouder of her team, which will compete in its first regional in two years.

"They work together. We're a family," said Copley, who believes this is the Colonels' first district title since 2002. "We're together day in and day out, and they give 100 percent on the mat every day. We have complete dedication."

Wednesday marked the third time in eight days that James Wood and Sherando finished 1-2 in a local competition. The Colonels won the Millbrook Invitational on Oct. 20, and the Warriors took the Sherando Invitational Saturday.

Defending district champion Skyline finished third Wednesday night (224 points), followed by Millbrook (222.5) and Handley (162).

Though senior captain Samantha Bennett said timing and synchronization play a big part in the the Colonels' success, Copley said she didn't think there was any one thing that lifted them to victory.

They just brought the same energy they always do.

"I just tell the girls to go out there and have fun, to do what they do every day, and just sell it," Copley said.

Calling their fans "the best," Bennett said it's easy to bring that enthusiasm when the Colonels get the type of vocal backing they received Wednesday.

By going first, Bennett said the Colonels knew anything less than their best wouldn't do.

"You really have to set the bar high to impress [the judges]," she said.

Parrish and Bennett credited Copley and assistant coach Liz Krippner for putting them in position to do that.

Sherando coach Tom Grim said he thought his team performed well, but the Colonels deserved to win.

"Our tumbling was really strong tonight," Grim said. "We dropped a stunt in the middle, and I think that hurt us in overall presentation. But other than that, I thought we did real well.

"It's just that James Wood beat us tonight. We'll just have try to load back up for regionals."

Considering what the Warriors have gone through in the past two weeks, it was hard to be disappointed about their fourth straight second-place finish in the district.

The coach that led them to the first two of those runner-up finishes, Jodi Frye, died Oct. 19 from liver cancer.

"We've had a rough time this past week," said Grim's daughter Chelsea, a senior captain who attended Friday's funeral with her teammates. "The juniors and seniors know her and loved her."

Chelsea said it's been difficult for the team to control its emotions. But with Frye's husband Tim, her daughter Lindsey (a former Sherando cheerleader), and son Logan (a Sherando junior) in attendance Wednesday, Chelsea said it was important for the team to show its character.

"We really pulled together and got strong, and we went out there and did our best for her," she said. "I was really proud."

Her father seconded that sentiment.

"We did an awesome job," said Tom Grim, who assisted Frye for four years before taking the head position last year. "The Millbrook competition ... that one was an emotional rollercoaster. Saturday we were a little better, then tonight they were real good. [The team members] just keep saying they have an angel on their shoulder."

- Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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