Cheer Wins Third Straight State Title


photo by Jake Arthur

Cheer strikes a pose after performing in the state finals competition on Jan. 30 at USF’s Sun Dome. The team, which was scored based off of execution and routine difficulty, scored a record 92.45 points, the highest score ever awarded in the state competition.

With state championships in 2014 and 2015, people might assume that cheer would cruise to a third title in January. Hardly.

Before the state championship on Jan. 30, cheer had yet to hit in a major competition, and they had falls in several. Yes, they had won competitions, and they had received runner up at UCA regionals (qualifying them for the state final), but the routines were not what they wanted or needed for a title. Yet with an experienced core accustomed to taking home titles, there was no panic.

“There was a never point where I thought another state title wasn’t possible. I knew we had a very talented group of girls,” senior Stephanie Fenning said. “We always had the potential, but a lot of the girls were just inexperienced.”

Cheer performs a powerful dance after they hit at the State competition.
photo by Jake Arthur
Cheer performs a powerful dance after they hit at the State competition.

That core is Olivia Albano and senior captains Fenning, Haley Parlette and Angel Pagan. The four of them have won three straight state titles, a national title and one world championship.

“I felt like I had to be a role model for the team,” Fenning said. “On the mat, I knew what it took to win state and national titles, so I led by example. Off the mat, I made sure to always make good decisions that would give Hagerty cheer a good reputation.”

At choreography camp in September, the team failed to hit the given routine, and realized winning a third state title would not be easy. The road to states had to be walked during practice where the routine would get better and better every day.

Even with the early setbacks, the team traveled to the USF Sun Dome on Jan. 30 and won a third straight state title with a score of 92.65, 18 points higher than the number two team and also the highest score in the history of the competition.

“We went crazy up on the stage. We realized all the hard work, bad practices and struggles we went through this season paid off,” Parlette said. “It’s a mixture of feeling proud, relieved, happy, excited, accomplished and loved.”

After winning a third straight state title there was plenty of reason to celebrate for a program with little past success.
photo by Jake Arthur
After winning a third straight state title, there was plenty of reason to celebrate for a program with little past success.

This year, the squad had only 10 seniors out of 26 cheerleaders, forcing the coach to rely on younger cheerleaders to step up and perform at a high level without the experience. Without the help of their older, more experienced counterparts, that would not have been possible.

“The upperclassmen have established a strong cheer program throughout the years, they’ve also helped the new members to varsity push themselves to become better,” sophomore Savannah Hobbs said. “The atmosphere at practice was very positive and this helped all of us become stronger.”

Even with younger cheerleaders stepping up, coach Kim Hackman still wanted more help, so she hired two new coaches, psychology teacher Abby Holmes and UCA staff member Claudy Devillen. These coaches would help the team practice, and help critique and judge, creating a competitive atmosphere.

“It’s hard to do it by yourself, cheer itself is like a full time job. It helps a lot because in the past I haven’t had anyone,” Hackman said. “They have been in the cheer world a long time, and even if I can’t make it one day, they will be there and the kids can still practice, so it’s been huge.”

Although legacy is important to the team, the focus was never on the team’s history, but on day-to-day improvement.

“We don’t compare ourselves to other teams or our past year. Instead we just focus on being better than our last routine,” Parlette said.

Even though the team did not go on to win the national championship on Feb. 6, the goal was always to win states. This team has helped write school history, and with another win they hope to slingshot the cheer program to new heights.

“I know that Hagerty will be great in the years to come because the younger members of the team have heart and dedication, and that can’t be beat,” Fenning said.