LIVINGSTON -- Four Live Oak High cheerleaders ended their careers exactly where they started — on top.
As freshmen, Ashlynn McFadden, Callie Prestridge, Aubrie Lewis and Kaitlyn Couvillion were part of the squad that captured the school’s first Medium Varsity Division I national championship in 2016.
They were on the squad that suffered a heartbreaking runner-up finish in 2017 — they still haven’t gotten over that one — and they were there when the squad stormed back to championship glory in 2018.
Last month, the four seniors cemented their legacy at Live Oak when they led the squad to another Medium Varsity Division I national championship, the program’s third in four years.
As Couvillion said, what a way to go in — and go out.
“We ended with a bang,” Couvillion said. “If we could’ve picked any way for this to happen over four years, this would’ve been it, and it actually happened.”
The Live Oak High cheerleading squad, comprised of 24 athletes under the direction of coaches Madison Guidry and Kate Hornsby, was recognized for its achievements over the last four years during the Livingston Parish School Board’s meeting on Thursday, March 7.
School Board member Kellee Hennessy-Dickerson, who represents the Live Oak area, handed certificates to each member of the squad and lauded them for their commitment to their school and community.
Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy needed one word to describe their accomplishments — dynasty.
“In these four years, you’ve set a precedent and tradition,” he said later, “not just at Live Oak High, not just in Livingston Parish, not just in Louisiana, but across the nation. We could not be more proud of you. Thank you so much for what you’ve done. Look at the legacy you’re leaving.”
The Medium Varsity crown — “the big one,” as Hornsby called it — was one of three titles the Live Oak squad claimed during the highly-competitive 2019 UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship held Feb. 8-10 in Orlando, Florida.
The squad also won first-place honors in the World School Cheerleading Championships (Large Varsity Division) and the Large Varsity Game Day routine, giving the squad a total of six first-place finishes in national competition in the last four years.
Before they were recognized at the School Board meeting, the senior cheerleaders discussed what it’s been like over the last four years — the long after-school and weekend practices, the late nights on game day, new coaches, the bickering that naturally comes between teammates, the pain of losing a national title, the joy of coming back to win it.
That second-place finish to St. Hubert Catholic High School out of Philadelphia in 2017 — by only three-tenths of a point — was particularly memorable, they said, and it provided plenty of motivation for the next two years.
“It was a really bad experience — I won’t ever get over it,” Prestridge said. “When we found out how close we were to winning, we couldn’t take it.”
“We were like, ‘Not second place ever again,’” Couvillion added.
They kept true to their word — the squad toppled Shaler Area High School out of Pittsburgh for the 2018 Medium Varsity crown before finishing atop a field of 73 teams last month.
For Guidry and Hornsby, their squad’s success is something neither imagined when they took over the program during the 2015-16 school year. At that time, they just wanted to make the program “our own,” hoping to instill a greater level of community involvement and school spirit in the squad.
With Guidry and Hornsby in charge, the squad has not only cheered for football and basketball, but also soccer, softball, baseball and volleyball. Most of the cheerleaders are also involved in other clubs on campus and in the community, which has led to greater interest in the program.
“More people want to be a part of our program than ever,” said Guidry, a 2014 Live Oak High graduate and former cheer captain. “People see it as more than competition and just want to be a part of something special.”
Part of that is because of the four seniors, whom the coaches praised for remaining “dedicated to the program” all four years of high school. They went from being timid freshmen just learning the ropes to extensions of the coaches themselves, always there to offer guidance to the younger cheerleaders.
“They were motivated, and they just got it,” Guidry said. “They understood every aspect about tumbling, stunting, leadership, trying new skills. And besides the cheering part, they wanted to be ambassadors for the school and get involved and make sure the other girls were involved. It’s not that we haven’t had great leaders before, but those four have been the whole package.”
Added Hornsby: “Those girls are everything. They really built what this program is now by the way they led by example as they got older. They grew with the program throughout the years. Everyone looks up to those girls, everyone.”
But as they say, all good things must come to an end, something the senior cheerleaders are still trying to get used to.
Each said they’ll miss wearing their Live Oak uniform, cheering at games and the thrill of national competition, and they all hope their time representing Live Oak will be remembered.
“I think about it more than other days, and I get really emotional because we’ve been doing this for so long and we’ve had so many accomplishments,” McFadden said. “It’s crazy that we’ll never wear that uniform again or compete again, but we left a legacy behind.”