The Cleburne High School varsity and JV cheerleaders and the Cleburne Crazies flag runners will be competing in their first UIL state contest Saturday.
The University Interscholastic League sanctioned cheerleading as a sport in 2016, which included the establishment of an annual competition focusing on the traditional game day role of cheerleaders--on the sidelines and in schools supporting athletic teams.
Saturday’s Spirit State Championships, involving squads across Texas from 1A- 6A and co-ed, will take place at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Schools will be competing in three events: crowd leading, fight song and band dance.
The day will begin with the Preliminary round, with Cleburne scheduled to compete at 8:48 a.m., 9:53 a.m. and 10:57 a.m. The finals are scheduled that evening, starting at 6:30.
Taking her cheerleaders to the state contest this year was among the goals of Christian Hardin, who is the new coach and sponsor at CHS.
“We started learning new routines right after the football season was over,” Hardin said. “This was among my goals as the new sponsor. People often view cheerleading based on what they see at games, which only provides a glimpse of all the skills they actually have.”
“At Saturday’s competition, our squad will be judged on their ability to lead a crowd, dance and showcase and communicate our school’s traditions. Our flag runners, the Cleburne Crazies, are part of that tradition and will be competing as well.”
District Athletic Director Mark Walker is pleased to see Cleburne among the teams represented at the state contest.
“The biggest thing about this is recognizing cheerleaders as athletes,” Walker said. “This allows them to compete at the UIL level. Anytime you have a chance to recognize kids for their hard work and give them a chance to compete and demonstrate their skills, it’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to this opportunity for our students.”
“Cheerleading isn’t just for football or volleyball games and pep rallies,” he said. “It’s about leading the crowds at all the games and, now it’s about the chance to compete for a state championship.”
Cleburne’s competitors include varsity cheerleaders Cassidy Martyniuk, Drew
Whitefield, Taylor Coleman, Reagan Walker, Madelynn McDonald, Kylie Dang, Lauren Foxcroft; JV cheerleaders Jaelin Rodriguez, Reese Williams, Madison Lynn, Kathleen Robertos, Raney Mead, Nadia Botello, Jazmin Contreras, Alexus Juarez and flag runners Landon Cody, Luke Morton, Lee Tyer and Isaiah Faulks.
“We are very excited about competing,” Martyniuk said. She, along with fellow seniors on the varsity squad attended Friday’s 6A contest to get a preview of the competition procedures.
“This is our first year, so we know we are on a learning curve. But this is a great opportunity and experience and we are going in ready to compete.”
Teams will be evaluated on their skills—from tumbling to technique—stunting, ability to lead a crowd, jumps, synchronization.
“The judges will be looking to see if they point their toes, if their feet are positioned correctly,” Hardin said. “It’s about all the details necessary in being a great cheer squad, in the role you play. We’ve really tried to focus on our stunting this year, as that is new to most of the members of our squad.”
Hardin’s efforts to expose her students to the wide world of cheerleading has extended beyond her seniors’ first glimpse of state competition. The former high school and college cheerleader also took her teams to the University of North Texas, where her younger sister cheers for the Mean Green.
“In addition to cheer camp before the start of the school year, they attended a UNT cheer clinic,” Hardin said. “My sister has also come down to work with the team. I want our cheerleaders to see what ‘game day’ looks like—leading the crowd, inciting spirit for the team, whether it be football, basketball or any sport.”
“In my mind, cheerleading has always been a sport,” she said. “These girls are so athletic—several often compete in another sport in addition to cheer. They are as tough as football players, with their moves and stunts. I’ve seen them fall down and get up and go again.
Cheerleading is also a mental game, as you work on a move or stunt until you get it right.”
Hardin believes Cleburne’s first experience in UIL 5-A competition will leave her cheerleaders “amazed at what they see.”
“They are nervous and excited,” she said. “It will definitely be an eye-opening experience for them. There will be lots of competition in our division--Arlington-Seguin was a top competitor last year. But I’ve prepared our team to take it all—in the prelims and the finals.”
Admission to Saturday’s Spirit State Championships is $15 for adults and $10 for students, ages 5-18.
Cleburne High School’s Varsity and JV Cheerleaders will be experiencing their first UIL contest Saturday as participants in the 5-A division of the Spirit State Championships at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Taking the team to the UIL contest was among the goals of new cheer coach Christian Hardin, a former high school and college cheerleader.
Cleburne’s flag runners, Landon Cody, Luke Morton, Lee Tyer and Isaiah Faulks will be competing with the cheerleaders, as the contest criteria includes the traditions involved in a school’s cheer program.
Christian Hardin, the new cheer coach at CHS this year, guides squad members through a practice in preparation for Saturday's Spirit State Championships, taking place at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Hardin is a former high school and college cheerleader.