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State titles on the line

The Northwestern High School cheerleading squad practices its routine Tuesday at Cheer South in Rock Hill. The squad heads to the Class AAAA state cheerleading competition in Greenville on Saturday.
The Northwestern High School cheerleading squad practices its routine Tuesday at Cheer South in Rock Hill. The squad heads to the Class AAAA state cheerleading competition in Greenville on Saturday.

They've stood on the sidelines with ribbons in their hair and smiles on their faces, faithfully cheering for their schools' football teams. But this weekend, cheerleading squads from Lewisville and Northwestern high schools will be the ones competing for state championships in Greenville.

Lewisville and Northwestern beat other local squads in qualifying competitions for the chance to compete at the state level.

For Lewisville, a trip to the Class AA state championship is an almost annual event. For Northwestern, which competes in Class AAAA, it's the squad's second trip in eight years.

"It's huge for the girls," Lewisville coach Susan Lancaster said. "I don't let them think about states until we qualify. We take it one competition at a time."

The squads compete throughout the fall in addition to cheering at Friday night football games. During competitions, the cheerleaders can do more tumbling and stunts that are not allowed without mats.

"Friday night is simply a glimpse of what we do," Northwestern coach Koren Pantsari said.

Competitions give the girls a chance to be the center of attention and have their abilities recognized. Competition routines last 2 1/2 minutes and consist of dancing, cheering, stunts and tumbling. Part of the routines are done to music, and part are just cheers.

"People don't really think cheerleading is a sport, but we consider it a sport," Northwestern co-captain Wrenn Woods said. "We work so hard day in and day out, so it's kind of our chance to show everyone that it is a sport and we are good."

Preparing for games and competitions is no small feat. Squads start practicing in the summer, beginning with their game material and then working on their competition routines afterward.

Lancaster said doing it that way allows the squad to get the game cheers down early so members can spend most of their daily practice time working on things for competitions.

Although cheerleaders on both squads said they enjoyed the Friday night games, many said competitions offer something special.

"I have fun on Friday nights," Lewisville co-captain Jessica Troutman said. "But the competitions on Saturdays are what I live for."

WANT TO GO?

• What: State cheerleading competition

• When: Competition starts at 11 a.m. Saturday

• Where: The Bi-Lo Center in Greenville

• Tickets: $8 at the gate. Kids under 6 are free

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