RICHMOND -- The third-year Eagles continued to defy the odds as a young team, overcoming the challenge of competing last in the first round to make the finals and place third in the Group A state cheerleading meet Saturday at the VCU Siegel Center.
“They expect it of themselves,” ERHS coach RyAnn Dean said of East Rock’s return to the finals. “…We had a couple deductions, but it was a really good routine. Tough crowd this year.”
Clearly, the Eagles wanted more, as mixed emotions came forth after the Region B champions heard their name called to accept the third-place trophy. East Rock also earned the third-best score (254.5) in the first round.
“I’m really proud of my team,” said East Rock senior Anna Talbot, who noted the team’s nervousness in competing last for the first time ever. “For like the three years the school has been opened, each year we’ve come to states. In the past two years, we brought home a trophy. That’s impressive.”
King William (271.5) took home its fourth state championship title, winning the Group A crown. Clarke County, East Rock’s Region B rivals, upped its game to finish as the runner-up with 257 points. Making its second state appearance since winning it all in 2006, the Eagles of Clarke improved on a third-place routine at regionals with crisp stunts and difficult tumbling.
“Standing fulls,” Talbot said. “Both [King William and Clarke County] had standing fulls. They were just that much ahead of us when they hit their routines perfect.”
For four of Clarke’s six seniors, it was a long-awaited return to the bright lights at VCU. Miles Crosby, Natalie Flagg, Allison Galvez and Holly Robinson competed as freshmen for the CCHS team that placed fifth at states in 2009.
East Rock, the runner-up last year by a half-point behind Manassas Park, had just three seniors this year – led by Talbot, the Region B Cheerleader of the Year – with six freshmen, six sophomores and three juniors.
“A good number of our freshmen do All-Stars [a year-round cheerleading program], and that has helped our team tremendously,” Talbot said. “…It’s almost like having an upperclassmen team, but they’ll be there for another three years.”
In Group AA competition, Harrisonburg came up short of its goal of making its first state finals, placing seventh with 232 points – a slight dip from the Blue Streaks’ score of 239 last week that earned their first-ever Region III title.
“We had worked on adding some harder stunts between district and now, and they nailed all their harder stunts,” HHS coach Bridget Smith said. “…We have a lot more advanced passes than we ever have, and we just need to keep going with that.”
As one of the smallest teams at states with 14 girls, HHS still proved it belonged on the big stage. Despite not improving on a sixth-place state finish from last fall, the Streaks believe they took a step forward with their most difficult routine yet.
“Starting off my freshman year, we were barely doing round-offs,” HHS senior Sarah Bell said. “Now, we’re working on tucks, working on fulls and we practice really hard. We’ve come a long way from where we started.”
Just four points separated the top-3 finalists in Group AA. Briar Woods won an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship in Group AA with 279 points. Runner-up Grafton (277) and Tabb (275) were close behind.
GROUP A/AA STATE CHEERLEADING MEET
At VCU Siegel Center in Richmond
Round 1 Team Scores:
King William (271.5)
Clarke County (264.5)
East Rockingham (255.5)
1. King William 267, 2. Clarke County 257, 3. East Rockingham 254.5, 4. Graham 234.5, 5. Arcadia 224, 6. Central-Woodstock 223.5, 7. Wilson Memorial 219.5, 8. Windsor 217.5, 9. Glenvar 211, 10. James River (Buchanan) 208, 11. Essex 183, 12. Radford 115.
Round 1 Team Scores:
Briar Woods (279)
1. Briar Woods 279.5, 2. Grafton 271.5, 3. Tabb 270.5, 4. Sherando 257, 5. Brentsville 250, 6. Tuscarora 245.5, 7. Harrisonburg 232, 8. William Byrd 227.5, 9. Poquoson 225.5, 10. Brookville 219.5, 11. Jefferson Forest 218, 12. Pulaski County 205.5, 13. Hidden Valley 204.5, 14. Lafayette 200.5, 15. Cave Spring 200.5, 16. Tazewell 163.5.