More than 350 cheerleaders crowded into WesBanco Arena on Saturday for the OVAC Cheerleading Competition with no less than that inspiration that accompanies any athlete.
Some squads felt the pressure to defend their title. Others came in motivated to take back a first place crown. Most teams hoped for the adrenaline rush to take home the trophy for the first time. And all of them had 3 minutes to be center stage and prove they could be the best.
The majority of the squads incorporated standing tucks, difficult tumbling passes, timely jump sequences, sharp motions and fast dances to grab the judges' attention.
After the scores were tallied, the Brooke Bruins defended their AAAA title with at least 20 twists throughout their time on the floor.
St. Clairsville in AAA regained the crown it held in 2006.
Monroe Central in AA, and Toronto in A, grabbed the first place trophy for the first time.
The Bruins wowed the crowd. Most girls pulled off two twists each. Their precision and synchronization in tumbling, dance and cheer took home the title for the fourth time in the last five years for Brooke.
‘‘It’s the drive that they have,’’ Brooke coach Christine Stucin said. ‘‘They complement one another and they practice 3-4 hour days, six days a week. We have a dynasty.’’
Despite the 10 state titles the Bruins have earned, Brooke’s Cara Gaich notes, ‘‘I think we always have pressure, no matter what competition we go to. It’s never a sure shot we are going to win.’’
St. Clairsville’s routine was marked by strong tumbling passes and ‘‘energy and enthusiasm’’ as coach Shawn Tomlan said. ‘‘We had a little bit of everything in our routine.’’
‘‘We worked seven days a week and put all of our heart and effort into it,’’ Red Devils cheerleader Brooke Hays said.
Monroe Central overcame a technical difficulty and still came out on top in Class AA.
‘‘Our music stopped but our drill and practice helped us recover,’’ Seminoles coach Susan Bondy said. ‘‘Our routine was fast-paced and we have precision.’’
Monroe Central freshman Liz Schuerman added: ‘‘It was exciting and an adrenaline rush.’’
Toronto won Class A without any senior leadership.
‘‘We have no seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and five freshmen,’’ Toronto coach Mary Beth Takacs said. ‘‘My girls have been together since they were 7 years old. They work well together. They give 100 percent.’’
Toronto cheerleader Rachael Stone noted that the girls all rely on one another, while Taylor Sneathen added ‘‘we’re one big family.’’
En route to both victory and defeat, numerous cheerleaders are injured throughout the season. The strength training, vigorous exercise, and practice tumbling wears and tears on a body. Some are able to perform, while others' time of injury may leave a cheerleader out of competition.
The squads are constantly revamping routines, hoping for perfection.
OVAC Directors Libby Shepherd and Mary Kay Zitzelsberger are dedicated to making the day a tribute to the girls who spend so much time supporting others.
Shepherd and Zitzelsberger have been directing for 15 years.
‘‘This is a fun competition without mounts where we come out and cheer and dance and tumble,’’ Shepherd said.
Zitzelsberger added: ‘‘OVAC planning starts in February. The OVAC now gives out scholarships based on ACT/SAT scores, community service and grades. Cheering is a full year commitment.’’
Second-place winners were Wheeling Park (AAAA), Magnolia (AAA), River (AA), and Bishop Donahue (A).
Third-place finishes were Buckeye Local (AAAA), Martins Ferry (AAA), Linsly (AA), and Bellaire St. John (A).
Photo by Scott McCloskey
Members of the Brooke High School cheerleading squad perform their routine during Saturday’s OVAC Cheerleading Championships at Wheeling’s WesBanco Arena.