Screams of delight erupted from the 14-member Richards Elementary squad when the Raiders were named the winners of the 2016 Elementary Basketball League cheerleading title Saturday.

Plenty of individual and group hugs, as well as tears of happiness, also prevailed after Richards ended a three-year winning streak by the Parkside Pirates, who finished second during the 17th annual Super Saturday competition.

After combined scores were tabulated, judges discovered that Parkside had tied with the Southside Mustangs for second place, event announcer Dennis Pierce revealed to the more than 2,000 spectators.

The judges used additional criteria to break the tie, Pierce said.

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Southside was given third place honors in the competition involving 11 grade schools within the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. The competition was held inside the Columbus North gymnasium.

Who’s in fourth?

After the top three teams were announced, a few people associated with the other eight competing teams were naturally curious how their school placed, as well as how close the scores were.But when inquiries were made, event judge Lynley Roberts kept her reply short and vague.“It was a good competition, with many schools showing more strength than last year,” she said. “Let’s leave it at that.”

While satisfying neither inquiring minds nor competitive natures, the event’s coordinator said Roberts’ answer was in the best interest of every young girl in the gym.

“Let them all think they got fourth place,” said Barb Feltner, who has coordinated Super Saturday cheerleading or similar events for the past 20 years.

Several others like organizers, coaches — and even varsity high school cheerleaders — agree that the final results are perhaps the least important part of the Super Saturday cheerleading event.

What’s far most important is rewarding the hard work and dedication of each girl who has been practicing since August, Richards coach Katie Schadenfroh said.

Setting the stage

Across the nation, supporters of elementary-school cheerleading have long understood the early years are primarily to set the stage for basic knowledge, skills and safety, according to author and cheerleading coach Lori Soard.For that reason, the focus is often kept on learning basic cheer motions, she said.Simple jumps, front rolls and cartwheels are fine. But with grade-school girls, it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the pyramids low and the tumbling limited, Feltner said.

“Safety is the most important thing,” Felter said.

The reason that bouquets of flowers are given to all participants while judges are tabulating scores may also be connected to why Super Saturday always attracts a large crowd each year.

Most parents and organizers understand that it’s their encouragement that builds confidence in each young competitor to keep working to develop their strength, agility and grace, Soard said.

By instilling that confidence early, young girls are less likely to give up when temptations arise from peer pressure, pop culture and hormonal changes a year or two down the road, Soard said.

Mentoring for the future

What may be the most interesting dynamic at the Super Saturday competition is the relationship between the young competitors and the more-experienced high school cheerleaders.Almost every senior on the Columbus North and Columbus East varsity squads said they participated in the event when they were younger.A number admitted that as they watched the competition Saturday, they could see themselves a half-dozen years ago.

East varsity cheerleaders Katie Emmert and Hannah Gregory remember how terrified they were the first time they performed a Super Saturday routine in front of more than a thousand people.

“But after you did your routine, it was really exciting,” Emmert said. “It drew me closer to my teammates, and so much fun that it made me want to keep cheering when I got older.”

For Gregory, the most frightening thing was knowing that if she didn’t do her part, the team’s entire routine would suffer.

“But then, that fiery child in you says that if there’s that many people, I want them to see the best I can do,” Gregory said. “I want to show my team off to all these other schools.”

Emmert and Gregory weren’t the only ones who saw memories on the North gym floor Saturday.

From the bleachers, a number of older teens enthusiastically voiced old cheers they once performed with the young girls now representing the grade schools they attended.

Meanwhile, the admiration expressed by many grade-school cheerleaders toward their older counterparts appeared to be nothing less than hero-worship.

And when the North and East squads took the floor for an exhibition of complicated routines involving synchronized gymnastics? Well, the screams couldn’t have been any louder.

When the first-place Richards team was asked if their North and East counterparts were what they want to be when they are older, a nearly eardrum-breaking “YEAH!” almost shook the gymnasium.

The results

Final standings for the 2016 Elementary Basketball League cheerleading competition:

1. Richards Elementary School

2. Parkside Elementary School

3. Southside Elementary School

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.