The historical day for the Apalachee High School competition cheerleaders was one which will likely always be remembered.
The Cheer Cats ventured back to Columbus for the state finals and finished fifth among 32 teams competing for the Class AAAAA co-ed state title.
AHS coach Meridith Wages called Saturday “a great day for Barrow County” as her team’s county and region rival Winder-Barrow High School was state runner-up in the division.
It was the second Saturday in a row the Cheer Cats were in Columbus. After finishing in the top eight at sectionals, the AHS team returned to Columbus for the finals.
A fifth place finish (along with a team high score of 256) marked the first time the Cheer Cats were called “onto the floor” to be recognized after the state competition, Wages said.
“Being called to the floor during the awards was our goal last year, but because of a 10-point deduction we earned seventh and didn’t make it,” Wages said. “So at the beginning of the season this year, the team made a goal to be top five in the state. They have stuck to this goal and worked on mini attainable goals throughout the season.
“This continued to be a goal of our team, but the competition with the top eight teams out of sectionals was tight and we knew we would have to hit a flawless and clean routine in order to reach this goal.”
As full preparation began for the state finals, the team received some tough news as one of the squad’s seniors had been elbowed in the mouth at her All-Star practice.
“Her teeth were not in their original place after the incident,” Wages said. “So, needless to say she had minor outpatient surgery on Monday where her teeth and gums were wired back together. We practiced all week without her and had even reworked the routine to put someone in place of her in case she was unable to return. To no surprise, this incredibly determined young lady was back in practice on Thursday afternoon. She then practiced full out on Friday and put on an amazing performance to make it her last GHSA performance on Saturday. This was a major testament to our program.”
The Cheer Cats left early Friday morning for Columbus to have time for final preparations. Ironically, Friday’s practice was a little rocky for AHS.
“One of the full-ups in the opening was not hitting and one side of the pyramid was not consistent,” Wages said. “We were thinking that we would have to make some tough decisions for those stunts to just go straight up instead of full up. We didn’t want anything coming down on Saturday.”
Later Friday evening, the cheerleaders had a chance to put these stunts up and gained needed confidence. Friday night following dinner the Cheer Cats had what their coaches termed “team time” reflecting on their memories of the 2012 season and simply creating positive energy for the next day.
The day of the state finals arrived and the team was ready to compete.
“We knew we had to make up our degree of difficulty points in execution since we had taken a full out,” Wages said. “They were incredibly clean and entertaining. One of our boys had the judges laughing with a high kick to the front.”
When all was said and done, the AHS team had emerged as fifth in the state.
“We are just so pleased with the way things ended,” Wages said. “We are so thankful that this group of kids had the opportunity to not only end an amazing season being fifth in the state, but most of all experiencing a life lesson of ‘the best things in life do not come easy and when you give everything you have towards a goal, you will attain it.’ Nothing is more rewarding than to hear the pride of accomplishment from individuals who have worked so hard.
“Additionally, this team wouldn’t be where they are today without the support of the parents. I have said this time and time again, but it truly does make a difference. We are thankful for the parents trusting in us to work with their children.”
Even once the team members were back in school Monday, the celebration continued.
“We are all still gleaming with pride,” Wages said. “This was an incredible group and they will be greatly missed, but I am more than thankful for the legacy they have worked so hard to establish.”