’Tis the season for heightened cheer—and not just of the Christmas variety! December 16, high school students from all over Arkansas will arrive in Hot Springs to perform routines showcasing group cheer, dance, stunting and tumbling talents in the State Spirit Championships, an annual cheerleading competition.
One squad heading to Hot Springs is the Sheridan Yellowjacket cheer squad, entering in the 6A all-girl performance division. This is their sixth year competing. They have won the state title the past two years, and coach Dana Morton said that, while they would love to win it again, “More importantly, I want the girls to perform a routine they are proud of and to remember the hard work and life lessons they have hopefully learned this year.” These girls have been working hard in extra practices and have already participated in five competitions this year. They have faced setbacks due to injuries and a fluctuating choreography, but they have persevered and will focus on consistency in delivering their routine.
The Hope High School Bobcats cheerleaders, returning to Hot Springs for the championships in division 5A all-girl, have also faced their share of hurdles to overcome in preparing for the championships. Injuries that forced routine changes and trouble balancing competition practice with the other duties and demands of a cheer squad made for a difficult year for the Bobcats, who began preparing for competition following the summer’s cheerleading camp. In discussing the challenges of the year, Coach Kirby Turner shared, “my team has learned that the comeback is always stronger than the setback.”
The championships are hosted by the Arkansas Activities Association, an organization that regulates interscholastic programs for athletic sports such as football, volleyball and wrestling as well as Quiz Bowl, chess and orchestra. High school spirit members work hard to boost the energy of fans and teams, furthering their own athletic prowess in so doing, and the State Spirit Championships is a great opportunity for them to display their abilities and be evaluated on their precision and execution.
There are multiple divisions in which squads may compete, largely dependent on the size of the team as well as the style of movement. Dance teams perform three different two-minute routines in styles of jazz, hip-hop, high-kick or pom-pom. In cheer, two divisions encompass coed groups, while there are six competitive all-girl classes. Each squad’s routine must be two minutes and thirty seconds long. The routines are staged to musical accompaniment and performed with one minute of vocal-only cheering. An additional two divisions are for Game Day competition, which focuses on the role of a spirit squad in leading a crowd, driving energy and excitement and responding to game cues. Listen and watch for the Fight Song performances in this division!
The competition will begin at 9 am in the Hot Springs Convention Center and conclude around 5 pm, with awards ceremonies in the morning and evening as different divisions finish their routines. The champion of each division wins a trophy and banner, the runner-up earns a trophy and some squads will be invited to a competition at Disney World later. Admission to the State Spirit Championships is $6—come to cheer on the cheerleaders and be cheered by their energy, and look for the Sheridan Yellowjackets and the Hope Bobcats!
Sheridan High School cheer photos provided courtesy of Sheridan Yellowjackets Cheerleading
Hope High School cheer photos provided courtesy of Hope Bobcats Cheerleading and by Gerren Smith