Ranch Cities' Cheerleaders compete at UIL Spirit State Championship
The Ranch Cities’ high school cheer teams returned from Fort Worth after attending the UIL Spirit State Championships on Jan. 14 with success and smiles to go around.
The three teams, Tioga, Aubrey and Pilot Point, were ranked in three categories: the band chant, crowd leading and school fight song. Each event was scored separately.
Pilot Point High School’s cheerleaders placed 16th at the UIL State Spirit Competition, Jan. 13-15, at the Fort Worth Convention Center out of 42 3A Division 1 schools.
This is the Lady Cats second year in a row to make it to the finals.
Alexa Rea coaches the squad and said that this year’s squad is made up of 15 varsity cheerleaders and 5 junior varsity cheerleaders.
The squad had seven new cheerleaders join this year. They were either too young or were participating in other sports at the time.
Junior varsity cheerleaders that joined the squad were Avery Davenport, Ryleigh York, Hannah Warren, Dakota Smalskas and Zoe Grigsby.
Rea said the squad had to make a last-minute pivot to their routine after a judges comment at the prelim performance.
“[The judge said] the crowd leading portion was hard to follow,” she said.
The squad then had to make last minute changes that were completely new to them.
“So, we had an hour to make these changes, and I am really proud of the way some of my cheerleaders had to learn completely new parts in such a short amount of time,” Rea said.
With consecutive appearances at the state competition, Rea said, “It has created a new standard for the PPHS cheer program that I hope will continue for years to come.”
Seven cheerleaders from the squad will be graduating this spring.
“Macie Lynch has plans to cheer at Baylor University or University of Oklahoma [once she graduates], depending on the tryout process,” she said.
Rea said prepping for next year has already started. Her young squad shows “outstanding cheer potential.”
“These girls have the experience of UIL under their belts now, and they know what it takes to bring home the trophy,” she said.
Aubrey’s team also saw competitive success, with the cheer squad placing eighth out of 44 teams in the finals out of the 4A Division 2.
“I am extremely proud of these young ladies,” Aubrey cheer coach Natashia Michael said. “They have worked hard preparing for this competition while continuing to cheer at games, pushing themselves academically, supporting their peers and promoting school spirit.”
She offered special congratulations to her squad’s seniors, KK Ashlock and Hannah Booze.
“They have both had a huge impact on our cheer program and will be greatly missed,” Michael said. “I am excited to see what this team will do in the future.”
The Tioga High School squad got hit by COVID-19 right before the competition, resulting in it being four girls down at the event.
“We ended up only being able to take eight of our 12; … as you can imagine, we had to make some changes,” Nalls said. “A few of them had to learn … some different motions. They rolled with it, kept their positive attitudes. They helped each other. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
The focus for the team is not on the individual, but the group.
“Nothing is about showcasing ourselves,” Tioga cheer coordinator Rachel Nalls said. “They don’t ever want an individual cheerleader to try to showcase themselves because you’re supposed to be, as a team, leading the crowd.”
Nalls’ squad did not place in the qualifiers and thus did not move on to the finals this year for the Conference 2A.
“We were pretty bummed about it, especially my seniors,” Nalls said.
Nalls touted the time before the competition as earnestly as she did the event itself.
“Our school always allows us to go down a day before,” Nalls said. “We check into a hotel, get dressed up and go out to have a nice dinner together. One of my favorite parts ... is just getting to build those memories, especially for my seniors.”
Staff Writer Basil Gist contributed to this report.