By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Three cheers to the West Jefferson High School competition cheerleading team.
The 21-member squad captured the 2014 OASSA Div. III state championship in the mount category. The state title is the Roughriders’ second in three years and fourth in the past seven years. The competition took place March 16 at Bowling Green State University.
“Everything just came together at the right time, but that’s why we practice as hard and as much as we do,” said Melissa Jester who coaches the squad with Jenny Hockenbery.
The team’s preparation started with choreography last summer. Through the fall and winter, they honed their 2.5-minute routine in regular practices and weekly tumbling classes. All the while, most members also cheered at football and basketball games.
“During basketball season, they’re cheering at two or three games a week and putting in the extra practice time for competition… It’s a big commitment,” Jester said.
Competition season runs from January to March. West Jefferson typically participates in three contests before state. This year, they advanced to state via the Central Region qualifier held in Dublin in February.
Competition cheerleading teams compete in one of two divisions: non-mount or mount. Both styles include elements of dancing, tumbling and jumping. Mount adds stunting, basket tosses and pyramids.
Jester said the number of teams choosing the mount category is growing. When West Jefferson won state in 2012, they were one of four teams in the competition. This year, seven teams competed.
“There’s more talent pool in Ohio now. It’s not as easy as it was two years ago,” she said.
West Jefferson entered the 2014 season with some returning cheerleaders from the 2012 state title team, but also a large number of freshmen.
“The younger girls didn’t have the experience when we started out, but they came a long way,” Jester said. “We had a few injuries over the season and had to juggle things around. Some of these freshmen had to step up in critical roles that normally go to upperclassmen.”
The state competition was originally scheduled for March 2. Bad weather forced postponement, causing a conflict with one of the team’s members who had an out-of-state commitment on the new date. Another freshman, Alyssa Sabin, stepped in as an alternate.
“She did a great job for us,” Jester said.
The 2014 title serves as a bit of redemption for the Lady Roughriders, she added. At the 2013 state contest, the team had the points to earn a second consecutive title but was disqualified for a move made during the pyramid portion of their routine.
“This year’s team partly dedicated the season to last year’s senior class and wants to thank them, along with the 2012 senior class, for helping build the foundation of the continued success of the competition cheerleading program,” Jester said.
The team also dedicated this season to Kassie Harper, a senior cheerleader who is battling a serious illness.
West Jefferson will graduate just two seniors from the squad this spring. With returners and a talented group of cheerleaders entering their freshman year this fall, Jester and Hockenbery said they look forward to a return to state in 2015.
The state competition is sponsored by the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators.
Alder places sixth
Jonathan Alder High School’s competition cheerleading squad placed sixth out of 18 teams in the Div. II non-mount category at the OASSA state championship. The contest took place March 16 at Bowling Green State University.
Last year, the Pioneers did not field a competition team. This year, they were coached by Daniell Warner and assistant coach Allie Myers.
“Our motto was: ‘New team, new year: Our tradition starts here,’ ” Warner said.
All 17 members of the Jonathan Alder squad also take part in regular football and/or basketball game cheering. To prepare for competitions, they practiced during the week and on some Saturdays and attended weekly tumbling classes.
“Sideline cheerleading is different than competition cheer. There’s more work ethic in competition cheer because it’s almost year-round,” Warner said.
She is already looking forward to next season. She plans to start on choreography as early as May or June of this year. The early start will give the squad more time to perfect their routine. Bad weather and school cancellations cut into training time late in the season this year.
Next year’s squad will have 11 seniors. Only two seniors will graduate from this year’s squad.
Members of this year’s squad included: Matt Adams, Jessica Ballard, Morgan Blain, Ashley Damron, Ashley Ellis, Kenzie Errington, Taylor Gentil, Jenna Hamilton, Hannah Hamm, Lexy Headings, Lindsay Knight, Courtney Picklesimon, Isabel Rodella, Mikayla Russ, Morgan Sarver, Alexis Sible and Tori Sintz.