After all 11 elementary cheerleading squads completed their routines in the annual season-ending cheer competition, the judges needed extra time to determine the top three finishers.
A close competition required the judges to break a tie, creating a few more anxious moments for the cheerleaders, their coaches and the throng of spectators in Columbus East High School’s main gym.
When the name of the winner was finally announced, many of the 12-member Richards squad shed tears of happiness.
For the second time in three years, the Richards Raiders had won the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Elementary Basketball League cheerleading competition.
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The Schmitt Rockets placed second and last year’s champion, the Parkside Pirates, finished third.
The cheer contest is part of what is dubbed Super Saturday, which also includes the elementary boys and girls basketball championship games.
Richards’ joy was driven by the knowledge that many hours of practicing and cheering at games had paid off, team members said.
“We’ve have been working really hard on everything since August,” sixth-grader Alaney Parker said after the Raiders were crowned champs.
Some new routines by the cheer squads made their debut this year, such as using pom poms to spell out letters of a school’s name and making waves through creative dance techniques.
“We are getting coaches who are on top of the latest age-appropriate routines,” cheer competition coordinator Barb Feltner said.
But finding routines for grade-school girls that will score points in three judging categories — spirit, sportsmanship and skill — isn’t always easy, said Lindsey Asher, one of Richards’ two coaches.
“You have to be creative, but you don’t want to make it too hard,” said Asher, who oversees the squad with coach Katie Schadenfroh.
If routines are determined to be too difficult for grade school girls, the team will lose points, Feltner said.
One thing the young girls from Richards had going for them, even though it didn’t factor into their score, was boisterous support from their fathers.
Donning blue and white wigs, with a few wearing outlandish blue makeup or Elton John-style sunglasses, nearly a dozen Richards “cheer dads” engaged in a humorous cheer challenges with the young competitors seated across the gym.
“If they are having fun at this stage, they’ll continue doing whatever they are doing, work hard and be successful long-term,” said Jason Major, the father of sixth-grade cheerleader Elaina Major, and leader of the cheer dads.
Those fathers also showed that if they were not worried about looking silly in front of a large crowd, neither should their daughters, event coordinator Dennis Pierce said.
“That may have given the Richards girls a little edge by relieving their tensions,” Pierce said.
The annual cheer competition is a popular annual event that organizers proudly admit who wins and who loses may be the least important concern.
“There’s no such thing as a loser here,” announcer Dick Johnson told the girls before the results were shared. “You are all winners.”
Most parents and organizers understand the main objective is to provide encouragement that builds confidence in each young competitor to keep working to develop their strength, agility and grace, Feltner 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, she said.
The young cheerleaders got to see examples of such confidence in person as the Northside and Central middle school cheer squads, and the North and East high school cheer teams participated at the event. All performed routines after the elementary squads finished, and many of the older cheerleaders also huddled with their alma mater elementary schools before final results were announced.
A list of the 10 most-recent winners of the Elementary Basketball League cheer competition:
Students from each of the 11 competing elementary school cheer squads were chosen to receive the sixth annual Above and Beyond award.
The plaques are presented to 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.
The 2018 winners are:
Clifty Creek: Kyla Sutton
CSA-Fodrea: Susana Bustos
CSA-Lincoln: Sophia Thomas
Mt. Healthy: Brilynn Martin
Parkside: Nola Ruble (cheerleading) and Ava Chastain (dance)
Richards: Katelyn Stetter
Rockcreek: Marissa Garrett
Schmitt: Novah Ulm
Smith: Jocelyn Schoettmer
Southside: Abby Grider
Taylorsville: Addy Deweese
The top three finishers in the Elementary Basketball League cheer competition: