A year after seeing a three-year winning streak snapped, the Parkside Pirates reclaimed their lost treasure of an Elementary Basketball League cheerleading title.

After edging out Parkside during last year’s 11-school competition, the Richards Raiders took second-place honors Saturday before a crowd of more than 2,000 spectators at the Columbus North gymnasium.

There were tears of joy from a few Schmidt Elementary cheerleaders after the Rockets received third place during Saturday’s 18th annual Super Saturday competition.

For the past nine weeks, Pirates coaches Jessica Ruble and Jessica Carlin held practices for at least two hours a day Monday through Saturday, Parkside cheerleader Helen Alderfer said.

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“Some routines were really hard to learn,” Pirates cheerleader Erin Kuehner said. “I had to go over them a few times while we were on deck, because I was so nervous and I didn’t want to mess it up.”

After combined scores were tabulated, Schmidt was just one point ahead of the fourth-place finisher, said Barb Feltner, who has coordinated cheerleading events for more than 20 years.

So who got edged out by one point? As they’ve maintained for several years, organizers and judges prefer that those who didn’t place in the top three all believe they got fourth place, Feltner said.

The cheerleading event was just as much a competition as the basketball games held that same day. Each judge evaluated the 11 cheer squads during home basketball games, as well as during Saturday’s competition, event announcer Dick Johnson said.

But elementary-school cheerleading is primarily to set the stage for basic knowledge, skills and safety. While simple jumps, front rolls and cartwheels are encouraged, most coaches keep pyramids low and tumbling limited, Feltner said.

It’s also in the best interest of grade school children to put sensitivity and encouragement ahead of competition whenever possible, Feltner said.

That’s because elementary school children experience varying degrees of physical and emotional growth, said Robin Campbell, whose granddaughter, Emma Campbell, has competed in the Super Saturday event for two consecutive years.

“Some aren’t as coordinated as others, and many don’t have the advantage of taking gymnastics or tumbling classes,” Campbell said. “It’s demoralizing to be told ‘You’re not good enough’ at so young an age. I think the worst thing anyone can be told is that we’re not wanted, for whatever reason.”

Encouragement, as well as compassion, was evident Saturday during the debut of the Royalty Angels. The six-member cheer squad of special-needs students received the most enthusiastic cheers and the sole standing ovation of the afternoon after their non-competitive performance.

But for the other cheer squads, even more reassurances than usual were required this year. The competition was delayed for more than an hour after the late-morning Southside-Mt. Healthy basketball games went into overtime, Johnson said.

“Waiting makes these kids nervous,” Feltner said.

In response, the Columbus North High School cheerleaders took their younger counterparts into an auxiliary gym and conducted games, activities and “just did silly things” to alleviate fears and anxiety, Feltner said.

Those same techniques were also used during the competition as each squad got into line prior to their performance.

Smiling and laughing adults encouraged the girls in line to sing along and dance to upbeat pop music as judges finished scoring each squad.  At the same time, coaches frequently went down the line and whispered words of encouragement to any competitor who looked like she needed a boost.

Even family members and classmates in the bleachers got in on the act.  A group of Southside parents — men and women — wore netted white and green headgarb with electric lights to encourage their children.

And on the second level of the gym was an 30-member entourage of Southside boys, all enthusiastically cheering on the girls.

Super Saturday cheerleading winners

2017

First place: Parkside Pirates

Second place: Richards Raiders

Third place: Schmidt Rockets

2016

First place: Richards Raiders

Second place: Parkside Pirates

Third place: Southside Mustangs

2015

First place: Parkside Pirates

Second place: Mt. Healthy Eagles

Third place: Lincoln Huskies

Above and beyond winners

During the 18th annual Super Saturday, students from each of the 11 competing elementary schools were chosen to receive the annual Above and Beyond award.  The plaques are presented to the student athletes who exemplify the spirit of the competition for their leadership and sportsmanship in their daily lives, in the classroom, on the court, and in the community.

Clifty Creek: Karlie Newbold

Fodrea: Zurlexyia Hernandez

Lincoln: Zeynep Law

Mt. Healthy: Cadence Pitcher

Parkside (cheerleader): Helen Alderfer

Parkside (dance): Jennifer Zarate

Richards: Reina Shibata

Smith: Ariana Simpson

Rockcreek: Jasmine Fisher

Schmitt (cheerleader): Macey Golden

Schmitt (dance): Kinley Shoemaker

Southside: Leah Hartwell

Taylorsville: Sophia Holt

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