The Live Oak High cheerleading squad is back on the mountaintop.
And it feels even better than last time.
A year after finishing as national runner-up, the LOHS cheerleading squad reclaimed its title of two years ago by capturing first place in the Medium Varsity Division I finals of the 2018 UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship last weekend.
This was the third national championship for Live Oak in three years, following its 2016 sweep in the Medium Varsity Division I and Super Varsity Game Day divisions. The squad came close to repeating as Medium Varsity champions last year but had to settle for second place, falling by only three-tenths of a point.
This year, the Lady Eagles were determined to have a different outcome — a golden one.
Their coaches had little doubt they would make it happen.
“The girls were hungry to come back and take back first place this year,” said Kate Hornsby, who coaches alongside Maddie Guidry, a former LOHS cheerleader. “They wanted it so bad because they felt like the deserved it last year, so this year they wanted to prove to people that they were coming back and going to win.”
The team worked on its routine for months, practicing four days a week before eventually bumping it up to five as the national competition drew near. The cheerleaders also practiced over holidays, school breaks and occasionally on weekends — basically any spare moment they could.
It made the victory that much sweeter, said captain Laci Baldwin, who’s now been part of two national championship-winning squads.
“This year, we felt like we deserved it more just because of all the work that we had put into it,” the senior said. “The excitement was the same as the first year [we won it], but this year was a little more gratifying.”
The cheerleaders arrived in Orlando, Florida, host city of the NHSCC, last Thursday and got right to work the next day, practicing once on the football field at the Walt Disney World Resort and once at the Top Gun All-Stars Gym.
When competition time rolled around Saturday, Live Oak was ready: The squad finished in first place in its Medium Varsity preliminary round, advancing directly to the finals the next day.
But the Lady Eagles saved their best routine for last, scoring better than a 91 out of a possible 100 in the finals on Sunday, Feb. 11, to finish atop 42 other squads and bring the trophy back to Watson.
Once again, not surprising to their coaches.
“This year, we just knew the the girls were ready more than ever before,” Hornsby said. “They executed skills perfectly in practice multiple times, and their consistency was so good. As soon as they hit the finals routine, we knew their score would be good.”
Jubilation ensued after the squad was crowned as cheerleaders, coaches, advisors and their families celebrated the momentous achievement.
For some on the squad, it was their second time reaching this pinnacle of high school cheerleading. And once again, all the work getting to that point felt worth it in the end.
“The thought you have [in that moment] is ‘you did it,’” Baldwin said. “All the hard work throughout the year paid off. This was for everyone.”
The Live Oak High cheerleading squad is made of 25 students in grades 9-12. Sixteen competed in the Medium Varsity Division I finals last weekend, though the entire squad made the trip and competed in the Super Varsity Game Day division.
The cheerleaders are seniors Laci Baldwin (captain), Shelby Summers, and Courtney Webster; juniors Aubrie Lewis, Kaitlyn Couvillion, Ashlynn McFadden, Callie Prestridge, Olivia Duhon, Jordan Porter, and Lexie Blough; sophomores Victoria Burr, Kaitlyn Waller, Alanya Karras, Halle Varnado, Abby Wang, Jillian Schenk, and Piper Horne; and freshmen Kaleigh Coffman, Reagan Davis, Abbey Barbay; Dalana Gill, Brianna White, Erica Murkowski, Callie Rogers, and Mackenzie Didier.
Team coaches are Maddie Guidry and Kate Hornsby, and faculty advisors are Jimmie Chandler and Dawn Amato.