At every Baldwyn Schools’ sporting event and almost every school event, you will see a cheerleader. They have prepared many hours of practice, made spirit signs, and dressed to perfection all to help engage Bearcat fans in support of whatever school function is occurring.
This year’s BHS Cheer Squad went above and beyond what was expected and required of them to maintain the title of a BHS Cheerleader.
In November the squad was named the Mid-South Regional Champions in Medium Non-Tumbling Varsity Division where they also received a bid to attend the 2018 UCA National High School Cheer Competition.
“We had made history at Baldwyn just by receiving a bid to nationals. I knew the girls had the mental and physical strength to do what it would take to perform at nationals. So we decided to invest the time, money, and energy into our squad and prepare to do our best,” Cheer Coach Sara Beth Howell said.
The BHS Cheerleaders began countless hours of practice that included stunts, cheers, sit ups, sprints, weight lifting, burpees and more. They went to the MHSAA State Competition in Jackson in December to claim the second place trophy for Medium Non-Tumbling Varsity Division.
With a second place title, the coaches and cheerleaders knew they had to step their game up and advance their practices to perform well enough for nationals.
“We were honestly just excited to have the opportunity to attend nationals at Disney in Orlando. But I knew this could be an experience of a lifetime for the girls. So we wanted to make sure we gave it our best and had no regrets looking back,” Howell said.
As the winter season strengthened, so do did the squad’s mental and physical strength during practices. However, the girls soon began to face the flu epidemic along with other sicknesses, injuries, and set-backs. They remained determined on weekdays and weekends to perfect their routine for nationals, even through the snow and other weather conditions.
Last week on Wednesday the school and community wished them safe travels and bid them farewell as the 14 cheerleaders, their coaches and families trucked the 12 plus hour drive to Orlando.
The challenges that had previously arose in their familiar practice zone were minute compared to the challenges they would face in Orlando.
After arriving at Disney, the squad discovered that two of their moves were considered illegal for competition. With only a day away from their performance, the coaches and cheerleaders spent the necessary time and practice to alter their routine.
“Their first performance at nationals was unreal. They have confidence and a minor fall, but they recovered quickly and finished strong,” Howell said.
Out of 45 teams in Baldwyn’s division, only 18 advanced to the semi-finals that evening.
“When UCA announced that Baldwyn had advanced to the semi-finals, you would have thought we had already won the whole thing. The girls were ecstatic, and so were their fans!” Howell said.
They squad only had a few hours to practice and perfect their routine in hopes of no drops this time. Adversity arose again as nerves began to clam up and stunts were dropped during practice. Howell and Assistant Coach Susanne Trollinger did what good coaches do best and had the girls take a break and focus on positive aspects of their performance and each other.
The end result
The time investment into the girls’ mental strength paid off as they performed their best with one minor fall that was recovered during their semi-final performance.
“The girls truly applied our motto of ‘mind over matter’ during this performance, and it was enough to advance us into the finals already ranked 7th out of 10,” Howell said.
Before their finals performance, the coaches had the chance to review their scores and videos for any point deduction appeals. Howell took the time to appeal two points that was not consistently noted in the first round. Baldwyn received their two point addition and prepared for their last performance as squad for 2018.
The day and time had come for the BHS Cheerleaders to have one last chance to gain a gold victory for the season.
“They left everything they had on the mat that day. The energy was insane and to see their faces that they had finally hit a perfect routine with zero deductions and zero penalties was priceless,” Howell said.
“If we didn’t place in Top 10, we knew we would be okay because we had done our absolute best ever. Then UCA named us 6th in the nation out of 45 teams.”
The squad was the only team in the finals from Mississippi, beating out Hernando in preliminaries, Belmont in semi-finals, along with the 3A-6A State Champions Northeast Lauderdale. Almost each school in the finals round had a school population of 1000 or more from California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Florida, and Kentucky. The Bearcats were the underdogs who would came out in the Top 10 in the nation.
“We are so grateful to our administration, parents, families, community, sponsors and students for the support and encouragement throughout this journey. We would not have been as mentally and physically strong enough to perform our best without each of you,” Howell said.
“We are very proud of our cheerleaders and coaches for their dedication and energy they have invested in our cheer program. We appreciate their hard work and that they represented our town and state so well on a national level,” Superintendent Jason McKay said.