Two Fort Mill high schools’ cheerleading squads competed in the South Carolina High School 5A Cheerleading Competition on Nov. 18, ranking ninth and 10th in the state.
Fort Mill High School and Nation Ford High School were two of 16 teams that qualified to compete in the state finals at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
Fort Mill High School cheerleading coach Haleigh Cahill said her team grew and improved throughout the season and with each competition. Fort Mill High finished ninth in the state finals.
“I think we excelled because we have an amazing group of talented athletes who have worked very hard,” she said. “Throughout the season we have worked on improving different aspects of the routine to get us to state, and ultimately we achieved our goal.”
The cheer squad puts in 10 mandatory hours of practice per week, but many team members invest additional hours to enhance their skills.
“What I learned from this experience is that the work you put in outside of what is mandatory will set you apart from everyone else,” Fort Mill cheerleader Maria Gjuraj, 17, said. “What I enjoyed most about this competition was performing on the mat with some of my closest friends and knowing that we reached our team goal.”
Her teammate, Meghan Trucksis, 17, said with only two seniors on the mat this year, the underclassmen had to step up their game to help the team achieve its goals.
“We met our team goals through perseverance and with heart,” Trucksis said. “Every single person is an important part of our team. I learned leadership skills and how important it is for each person to remain positive and to encourage each other on and off the mat.”
Each team performed a two-minute, 30-second routine packed with elite tumbling and stunting skills. Nation Ford High School cheerleading squad finished 10th in the state finals.
“I loved the feeling I got when I stepped on the mat to compete,” Nation Ford High School cheerleader Summer Sweeney, 17, said. “The energy from the crowd was unreal, and for those two minutes and 30 seconds, my mind went blank as my muscles took over.”
The Nation Ford cheerleading squad regularly practices 10-15 hours per week for seven consecutive months. And the squad’s varsity coach Kristin Rhodes thought her team’s hard work paid off at finals.
“The team has an extremely hard work ethic, desire to improve and close bond with one another,” she said.
Several of Nation Ford’s cheerleaders said the experience has taught them important life lessons. Sweeney said she’s learned leadership and sportsmanship from cheerleading.
“When something goes wrong, it’s easy to be mad at yourself or another teammate, but it is not beneficial to the team,” she said. “It’s more effective to turn that frustration into determination like my team did in the last two competitions.”
Sweeney’s teammate Rachel Donavan, 17, said cheering has taught her to never give up because she can do anything she sets her mind to.
And Nation Ford cheerleader Rose Satriano, 17, said cheering has turned her into a driven person.
“I have learned it is not all about winning,” she said. “But it’s about knowing you gave it your all and have no regrets.”
Stephanie Jadrnicek: firstname.lastname@example.org