Cheer Back on Top with Fourth State Title


photo by Jay Getty

The varsity cheerleaders perform at the National High School Cheerleading Championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. The team went on to win the second world championship in program history.

Bryson Turner, Online Editor

Varsity cheer coach Kim Barlowe thought she was done. When 2017 ended, the varsity cheer team’s state championship streak was snapped, and Barlowe was done… until she wasn’t.

“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with the person that was hired as my replacement, so they had approached me about if I would be willing to come back.” Barlowe said. “Of course, I wasn’t going to ever leave those kids hanging.”

With Barlowe coaching one last time, the varsity cheer team won its fourth state title in five years and added a second world title to go with it.

“We were falling all over the place, and then we hit our routine at the regional competition without ever hitting it in practice,” co-captain Courtney O’Dea said. “That started our momentum.”

The team carried that energy to the state competition, earning an 84.55, the highest score of any 2A team, regardless of division.

“It is honestly unexplainable,” sophomore Lauren Lee said. “Winning states, it gives me chills to think about it.”

This title completed a year of redemption after the team finished runner-up to Bartram Trail last year, but that was not on the mind of those who were making a second, or even third, trip to the state competition.

“Me, Chase [Garick], and Savannah [Hobbs], we were talking about it, and saying how last year never came to our minds [that] whole week because we were working so hard,” O’Dea said.

While the core of the team returned, one cheerleader making her first trip to the state championship was freshman Courtney Downing, who became the first freshman in the program to be a part of a state champion squad.

“When I was younger, I’ve always looked up to them and wanted to be on the team,” Downing said. “They were always so exciting to watch, so to be able to be on the team and wear that uniform, I just felt so honored.”

But two weeks of competition, in both regionals and states, took its toll. Downing was one of two cheerleaders who injured an ankle during the state championship, which rendered her unable to tumble during the week between then and nationals, which was less than a week away. On top of that, three members of the team came down with the flu.

“My biggest thing was keeping the kids well, but I wouldn’t let them quit,” Barlowe said.

The team, the entire team, managed to get healthy enough to compete in the national championship where the team finished 11th. However, there was still one more routine, and that was for worlds, a competition which invites top squads from the previous year to square off for supremacy.

“We went through and watched the videos on everything that we could improve on and from other teams that we could be competing against to give us that mindset that we are up there with the other teams,” co-captain Savannah Hobbs said. “We just have to do our job.”

The team scored an 87.63, enough to win the second world title in program history, and the second white championship jacket of the season.

“We just kept staying positive,” Downing said. “If something messed up in warm ups, we shook it off, reset and did it again.”

While the juniors, sophomores and Downing look forward to competitions to come, where more success may await, the seniors hung up their uniforms with pride.

“I feel like we’ve left a mark on the program,” O’Dea said. “It just shows no matter what struggles you go through and no matter what successes you have, you can do what you put your mind to and finish strong.”