West Stokes cheerleaders perfected a one-minute, 30 second routine to win top honors over the weekend at the 2016 Cheer Limited Nationals in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Wildcats became Stokes County’s first cheer program to bring home a National Championship title in the Small Varsity Non-Tumble D2 Division.
Coach Christina Bell said she was elated for her team and the growth she’s seen throughout the season.
“Watching my team continue to improve and develop to this skill level has been a process that continues to tug at my heart. I feel like I’ve walked with them through the struggles, sacrifices and injuries they’ve endured to get to this point. We began this routine in the summer of 2015 as we prepared to compete for Jamboree. Almost one year later we were performing at the highest level we’ve ever been,” Bell said.
The routine, a full production mix with 146 beats per minute, included a one-minute cheer, dance jumps, stunts including quad toe touch, co-ed partner work, and pyramids.
“You need an in-depth knowledge of each category you’re judged in. You have to be able to balance cheering with your voices while stunting, running, or jumping, and you have to move at a fast pace but still keep contact with and perform to the judges. Visual appeal is very important too, and working it to flow creatively is key,” she said.
After the first day of the weekend competition Bell could sense her team was nervous, but after reviewing the daily scorecard she realized they were leading in their division.
“I knew I had to tell them the next day we had to give it all we had because we needed to hold onto first place. They were in shock,” she said.
At the same time, as a coach fear began to sink in. Other teams also received feedback from judges and had an opportunity to correct areas they’d lost points in earlier throughout the day.
“They could have easily closed the gap if we didn’t perform well and we all ended with just a five point difference between first and second place. It’s not enough for you to be comfortable with knowing you’re going to win,” Bell said.
Going in, the coach knew the competition would be steep.
“I did as much research as possible. I was particularly nervous about Nonnewaug High School from Connecticut because I knew they were skilled. North Johnston also pulled out high scores.”
In the end, West Stokes finished first. After a season of cheering on the football team to a conference championship and the basketball team to a state playoff run, the Wildcat cheerleaders had fans on their feet for their own accomplishment.
“It was everything we imagined and more,” Bell said. “The unity we’ve mastered as a team, as far as learning how to work with one another and push each other to strive for perfection has been the most successful strategy for us. I knew we learned quite a bit from the previous year and we were determined to be greater than the last. I don’t think any of us could have imagined winning a national championship and ending the season on such a high note. It wasn’t easy, but we did it.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.