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Big cheers: Local squads bring home top honors

Photos courtesy of Photographic Arts. 
Top, Mill Creek's varsity competition cheerleaders took first place at state for Class AAAAA all-female squads in the Georgia High School Association's state championship competition.

Bottom, Peachtree Ridge's Blue Pride earned top 
honors for co-ed teams in the GHSA competition held Nov. 13 and 14.

Photos courtesy of Photographic Arts. Top, Mill Creek's varsity competition cheerleaders took first place at state for Class AAAAA all-female squads in the Georgia High School Association's state championship competition. Bottom, Peachtree Ridge's Blue Pride earned top honors for co-ed teams in the GHSA competition held Nov. 13 and 14.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- These cheerleaders don't just root for sports teams from the sidelines, they bring home their own championships.

Mill Creek's varsity competition cheerleaders -- the Cheerhawks -- took first place at state for Class AAAAA all-female squads, while Peachtree Ridge's Blue Pride earned top honors for co-ed teams in the Georgia High School Association's state championship competition held Nov. 13 and 14.

Despite an injury the day before the state competition that sidelined one of the squad's members, Peachtree Ridge rallied for the win with junior Emily Yoder stepping up to take Meaghan Bohlayer's place. Bohlayer had broken her ankle Nov. 13.

"In our sport it's not that easy to do," Lions head coach Rob Spencer said of replacing a starter. "Everything is choreographed to counts, so when we put our new person in for the injured athlete, she had to learn the whole routine."

Yoder started practicing Friday afternoon, a day before the competition.

"The only time that the group threw the routine full out was when we took the floor at state so there was a lot to overcome there," Spencer said. "A lot of stunting is rhythm and timing and building confidence and trust. When your groups gets broken up like that, it's a lot to overcome."

Mill Creek rallied mid-season when head coach Ashley Taube revamped the squad's routine and changed the music.

"I just felt like I wanted a change just to try to get our scores higher because we weren't scoring in a couple areas that we wanted to," she said.

A mid-season overhaul to a routine isn't common.

"Typically people do slight changes to their routine throughout the season or add more difficulty as they compete," Taube said, "so for us to completely stop what we were doing and change things up was a bit unusual."

Unusual and unnerving.

"It was pretty nerve-racking," said Mill Creek senior Shannon Young. "We were all pretty nervous about it, but we trusted her. When you go with the flow things come out for the better. We are grateful for everything she did for us."

The changes must have been worth any minor setbacks the Cheerhawks encountered as they can now boast back-to-back state titles.

"It was really exciting because we had a lot to live up to from last year," senior Ali Avery said. "We expected to do well, but we just wanted to do our best and see what happened."

"It's amazing," added Sasha Gwin. "It's the best way to end senior year, to go out with a bang kind of."

For Peachtree Ridge, this year's win at state is the school's first co-ed title.

"It's nice because we had won all-girl and we hadn't won a co-ed," Spencer said.

Along with its state title, Peachtree Ridge's squad is the first ever in any division to have completed five double-twisting cradles. This means each of the five cheerleaders tossed into the air by their respective stunt groups were able to execute two twists before being caught by their fellow squad members.

"It's just very hard to do because you don't have as many people assisting with the stunts having five groups," Spencer said of the group stunt. "You don't get as much pop."

Competitive cheerleading routines are judged on the degree of difficulty and execution of jumps, pyramids and tosses, tumbling passes and partner stunts, as well as the quality of dance and cheer/chant portions, formations and transitions from one portion to another and showmanship.

Winners are determined by the highest point total from the judges after the highest score and the lowest score have been dropped.

Grayson and Collins Hill took second and third places, respectively, at the AAAAA classification, while Duluth brought home a third-place finish in the co-ed division.

Prior to last year, Peachtree Ridge (2005 and 2006), Duluth (2004 and 2005), Shiloh (2002), North Gwinnett (2000) and Parkview (1998) had won state cheerleading titles.