By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
The Cullman High cheerleading squad cheered its way to a fifth-place finish at this year’s national competition in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday and Sunday.
The Bearcats competed against 42 other schools from around the country in the Small Varsity Division Two group.
Coach K.C. Chamblee was happy for his team, albeit a little confused about the results.
“We were in third place after Round 1,” he said. “After Round 2, we were in first. I thought our last performance was our best one, but we dropped down to fifth. We were all kind of baffled by it to be honest.”
The competition consisted of teams performing the same routine three separate times in front of three different judging panels.
“We all thought we should have been at least in third place,” Chamblee added. “The girls were shocked.”
The fifth-place finish is the highest of any Cullman team in its cheerleading history. Despite being somewhat disappointed, Chamblee said the girls were pleased with their effort and result.
“They were heartbroken at first,” he said. “But they are also very proud of their accomplishments as well. To be the highest any Cullman team has ever placed is a good thing.”
Chamblee credits this year’s higher finish — the team was sixth in the 2012 competition — with a much more difficult routine.
“That’s how it works,” he said. “You try to get better each and every year. I think we did that.”
The girls were also invited to compete in the World High School Cheerleading Championship at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports on Sunday.
The squad placed third in that competition, which saw teams from Pennsylvania, Canada and Ecquador place as well.
One of the advantages of finishing toward the top is the chance to meet some famous on-air personalities. That was exactly the position the Cullman cheerleaders found themselves in when they were interviewed by former Olympic gold medalist Shawna Johnson following their routine.
“That’s their idol,” Chamblee said. “Most of them follow gymnastics. They were blown away by her and her evaluation of us. She talked to them a little bit after the interview. It was definitely an adventure for them.”
Natalie Harris, a senior captain, said the experience was one to remember.
“It was absolutely incredible to meet her (Johnson),” she said. “I’ve always looked up to her growing up.”
It’s been quite the season for Chamblee and coach Haley Nix. Chamblee stated the girls got together this summer and came away with extra motivation entering competition.
“We dedicated the season to Andrew (Winfrey) back in the summer,” Chamblee said. “They promised to work harder than they ever have for him. It was a great year. State champs and a high finish at nationals.”
The Bearcats are poised to return with authority next season. They will only lose three seniors and return nine top contributors.
“We should be stronger next year,” Chamblee said. “We start back in April preparing for regionals in November.”
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.