Gone are the cheer competitions of yore; teams from across the Virginia Peninsula danced, jumped and soared all with the hopes of being the best.
Nine teams from the Williamsburg-James City County Schools, York County Schools and New Kent County Schools faced off to see who could bring the most cheer, both choreographically and technically, to the York High School gymnasium.
Grafton High School’s well-rehearsed routine earned them top marks from the six-panel judges and three technical judges. Tabb High School finished second and Lafayette High School was third.
For the 8th place Bruton High School, cheerleading is as much an athletic competition as it is a stress reliever, according to team captain Meredith Kidd.
“It’s probably what gets me away from everything else,” Kidd said. “Where I can be myself and feel myself.”
Kidd, like many cheerleaders, got her start when she was elementary school age, she said.
She has spent more than half of her life tumbling, jumping and strengthening herself, she said.
Now, she practices with her teammates about 20 hours a week, four hours a day, Monday to Friday for her role as a base on the team.
The other team captain, 16-year-old Taylor Horne, got her start in cheerleading when she was 7, and as she has grown older she also has grown more confident in her role as a flyer.
Horne stands at the top of the human pyramid during stunts before dropping down to her teammates, she said.
Both stunts and tumbling require strength and precision, according to Bruton head cheerleading coach Charity Choice.
By the end of May, Choice said, teams, start their conditioning programs for the upcoming cheer season which runs until the start of November.
Choice, 22, said cheerleading is more than just a sport, it can offer the opportunity for young athletes to find their identity and feel positive about their bodies.
“Every Friday we do a big team bonding thing,” Choice said. “We talk about what our positives for the week were, and anything they need to get out as far as anything that may happen during the week — we talk about it.”
Further, it can teach young men and women to have determination as they compete against teams from across Hampton Roads.
Cheerleading keeps student-athletes motivated and gives them a “safe space” to work through their lives, Choice said.
While Bruton cheerleaders train hard, other teams earned higher marks from the judges at the competition Tuesday night.
Grafton High School’s squad beat the rest with a deafening performance, while Lafayette’s team came in third — the best result for any school in the Williamsburg-James City County School Division.
Lafayette finished second at their last meet on Sept. 22, according to head coach Channing Wynne.
The teams to beat, according to Wynne, remain both Grafton and Tabb.
“It’s about putting it all together and looking at the details,” Wynne said. The Lafayette team will continue to see where it can better execute stunts and tumbling.
“You did your best,” Wynne told her team after the results came out. “You left it all out there.”
1. Grafton 275.5, 2. Tabb 259.5, 3. Lafayette 245, 4. York 217.5, 5. Warhill 209.5, 6. Jamestown 181, 7. New Kent 170, 8. Bruton 161, 9. Poquoson 151.5.
Roberts can be reached at 757-604-1329 or on Twitter @SPRobertsJr.