• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports

WCHS cheerleaders win National Championship; WCMS places third

THE WCHS CHEERLEADERS were honored at halftime of the boys’ basketball game on Friday, Feb.16. The team posed with their championship jackets, banner and trophy. (Photo by Bill Caine)

KATARINA MORRIS patrols the sidelines during senior night at WCHS on Feb. 16. (Photo by Bill Caine)

The Woodford County High School cheerleading competition team won the Universal Cheerleaders Association Championships in the small school coed gameday division on Feb. 11 in Orlando, Fla.

“I was shocked, but I honestly think it was more than shocked,” said WCHS Coach Heidi Hemlepp. “I remember seeing the kids react to the announcement but it was all in slow motion. The team was so positive the whole day and I think that played a large role in what we were able to do.”

“In that moment, I remember screaming and hugging everyone,” said WCHS senior Katarina Morris. “It's a feeling I won't forget for a long time.”

The WCHS cheer team started their season last summer and it is the longest running high school sport season at Woodford County. The team prepared for regionals at practice and on the football sidelines on Friday nights. In the winter, they patrolled the sidelines of the home and district basketball games.

“The road here has been hard,” said Morris. “We had people quit. We've had bad injuries. Drama like any team does, but in the end we came together for one weekend and nailed it and I could not be happier about the ending.”

At the gameday competition, the teams get no more than three minutes to showcase their skill in an environment that resembles the sidelines of a high school sporting event. The categories consist of band dance, situational sideline, timeout cheer and fight song.

“I think we caught fire,” said WCHS senior Chelsea Call. “The energy was right and at the perfect time and we nailed it. I hope we inspired future teams to work hard and anything can happen.”

The Jackets punched their ticket to Orlando on Saturday, Nov. 11 at the UCA Championships which were held at Heritage Hall in Lexington Center.

“There is so much work that goes into what we accomplished,” said WCHS Freshman Maddie Hall. “For us younger members of the team, we now have to keep the legacy alive and make sure the team strives for this achievement every season.”

“There were a lot of feeling that came when they named us champions but most importantly it was an honor to be named a champion,” said senior Drew Richie.

“I cried because it was the most wonderful feeling I've ever experienced,” said Kennedy Geilear. “We made it work when we needed to. Some of the teams that we beat, got the best of us at the regional competition, but we went to work and it resulted in a big win for us.”

UCA is the largest provider of cheerleading camps and competitions in the world. Each year, UCA hosts over 50 regional events that serve as qualifiers to the National High School Cheerleading Championship and the International All Star Championship at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. These Championships are nationally televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and CBS Sports to over 100 million homes and 32 countries nationwide each year.

“We learned a lot about each other this weekend and we learned that if it was going to work, we had to be one big happy family,” said freshman Grace Coffman. Everyone rallied together and fought as hard as they could for this win. It will stay with me for the rest of my life.

THE WCMS CHEERLEADER finished third at the national cheerleading championship at Disney World on Sunday, Feb. 11 and finished fifth in the world championship. (Photo submitted)

The Woodford County Middle School cheerleaders went to nationals and earned a third-place trophy in the game day competition. The Tigers also competed in the world championship in Orlando. They earned their bid by finishing in the top 10 last year at the national championship.

“We finished the season with 22 girls who range from sixth to eight-grade,” said WCMS Coach Jessica Coleman. “My girls improved significantly this season and especially when it mattered most. They bought into the plan and they believed they could achieve this.

The middle school team ran a fundraising campaign with local businesses to gain sponsorship and those businesses have a banner hanging in the middle school gym.

“The fundraising is just part of what our season consists of but it is a very big part,” said Coleman. “Without the funds we couldn't travel to events like this and compete.

The trip to Orlando is the third in five years for the middle school team and they expect more in the future including a trip back next season in the game day competition.

“The game day competition is fast paced and the girls have to be ready,” said Coleman. “When they hear an audio cue they have to make a very quick decision on what cheer to go into and what signs to hold. They performed so well with it. I'm so proud of them.”

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