Highlands cheerleaders give their all at recent competitions

Highlands High and Middle School cheerleaders have been training hard for months to prepare for several competitions, the most recent comp in Greenville, S.C. scheduled for Feb. 8 wasn’t meant to be due to snowy road conditions.

HHS and HMS cheer team began their competitive season on Nov. 23, 2019 and after traveling four hours to Greensboro, HHS was awarded first place in their division with zero deductions.

HHS Marilyn Valerio at the top of a stunt during a performance at a home game against Swain.

HHS Marilyn Valerio said the team did well considering it was several of her teammates’ first time competing.

“I feel like there was a lot of good things and bad things,” said Valerio. “We definitely could’ve done much better than we did, but for a lot of them it was the first time stepping out on the floor and they did really great.”

HHS and HMS both received high scores in multiple categories.

“We scored really high in the jump category,” said Highlands Coach Kristin Hunneycutt. “We received almost full points for difficulty and execution. The judges also made the comment that our pyramid had a great foundation, but they wanted to see the difficulty increased. In preparation for the next competition we will work on cleaning motions and transitions and increasing difficulty.”

Huneycutt added feedback from competitions is beneficial.

“After each competition, coaches receive scoresheets and feedback on the routine,” she said. “For the competition we were at, I received some really great feedback on what can be improved and what looked good.”

HHS Jordan Powell is the sole male on the team and teammates said he is an incredible back stop to the flyers. HHS Jordan Powell is the squad’s only male and said he’s enjoying his time cheering.

“It was a bit strange at first, but after a while it became normal,” said Powell. “I’m treated just like the girls on the team. Taylor and Maddie were on the team last year and told me that they needed a guy on the team. I had already kind of wanted to be a cheerleader, but them requesting was the last little push.”

Huneycutt said Powell has been very useful to the team and several of his teammates have deemed him an incredible back spot for the flyers.

HHS Haley Small (right) performing at a home game against Hayesville.

HHS Haley Small said she has a great time going to games and cheering competitively.

“The cheer team is like a family,” said Small. “There are some people who don’t think cheering is a sport, but it pushes you and gets you out of your comfort zone.”

From left are HHS Getsi Hernandez and Alexandra Clark performing at a home game against Hiwassee Dam.

HHS Alexandra Clark is trying out cheering for the first time and said it’s challenging.

“It’s a new sport for me that I’ve never done before,” said Clark. “You have to do a lot to learn the routines and stunts for competitions, and there’s a lot of drama, but it’s a lot of fun. Win or lose as a team, no matter what happens we have each other.”

HHS cheer team performs at the NCCCA. Submitted photo

Second on the agenda for both cheer teams was the North Carolina Cheerleading Coaches Association competition in Raleigh on Feb. 3. Highlands didn’t place at the NCCCA, but Huneycutt said both teams did well.

“High School did extremely well, they have added a lot of difficulty to their routine since November,” said Huneycutt. “Their routine was not perfect, but they rallied and I am very proud!”

HMS cheer team performs at the NCCCA. Submitted photo

HMS has gone through several changes this year and Huneycutt said they roll with it as it comes.

“They have lost members and gained members,” said Huneycutt. “Their routine has changed multiple times. The middle school team did amazing! I am so proud of them. The routine was not perfect, but they went out there and did their best!”

Other high schools that competed at the NCCCA include Currituck County High School and South Rowan High School. Middle schools include River Road Middle School, Swift Creek Middle School, Maiden Middle School, Ellerbe Middle School, Rockingham Middle School, Edwards Middle School, and Durant Road Middle School.

HMS Tate Wilson (front row on left) performs at a home junior varsity game.

HMS Tate Wilson said she was anxious during the six-hour trip to the NCCCA in Raleigh.

“The drive there was really nerve-wracking,” said Wilson. “When I got on stage, I was thinking oh my gosh I can’t believe I’m up here. I’ve worked so hard for this and I know I deserve to be here. I think we did our best, maybe try a little harder next time, but we did what we could.”

HMS Soraya Lopez at the top of a stunt.

HMS Soraya Lopez said it’s not all about going home with a trophy.

“I was nervous at first, but once we started I calmed down,” said Lopez. “No one fell and it was really fun. Even though we didn’t place, just by being there we won in our hearts.”

HMS cheers for home middle school games and home junior varsity games throughout the basketball season, and HHS cheers for home varsity games. Both teams compete between the months of October and February.

From left are HHS Jeslyn Head and Bailey Schmitt practicing one of their first attempts to be on top of the stunt.

HHS Jeslyn Head said it’s a lot of work training for the routines and wished she did better at the NCCCA.

“All the motions of each routine go through my head and it’s a little overwhelming and outside my comfort zone,” said Head. “We did ok, definitely not our best. We’ll get another chance and hopefully redeem ourselves.”

Huneycutt said the season has gone well so far.

“It’s going great,” she said. “We have a lot of young blood this year and it been a learning process for most of us. The girls and boys have worked very hard all season. We as coaches would like to thank the Highlands community, school, and parents for the support. Go Highlands!”

HHS and HMS next compete on Feb. 22 at the Deep South Peach Classic in Duluth, Georgia.

Highlands High School cheer team. Front row from left are Brianna Norris, Ashlynn Wilson, Maddy Coen, Hadley Templeton, Marilyn Valerio, Joana Jimenez Reyes, and Getsi Hernandez. Back row from left are Jeslyn Head, Alexandra Clark, Rebecca Wiggins, Taylor Rickert, Jordan Powell, Sidney Figel, Bailey Schmitt, Ellen Diehl, Hayley Small, and Emma Weller.

Highlands Middle School cheerleading team. Front row from left are Lathea Watts, Anna Fox, Soraya Lopez, Gavin Small, Lillian Rutter, Lilly Cambroon, and Nicole Taylor. Back row from left are Brooke Fogarty, Jasmine Oakley, Shirley Diaz, Katie Earp, Savannah Bozeman, Tate Wilson, and Darby Templeton.

In the foreground from left are HMS Nicole Taylor and Gavin Small after a stellar performance at a home JV game.

HHS Ashlynn Wilson executing her role as the flyer getting mad air.

HHS and HMS practice their routines several times a week, adding new material for different competitions.

HHS Taylor Rickert eye level with the scoreboard at the top of a stunt.

It’s not all hard work and training for routines, in the center is HMS Katie Earp laughing at something hilarious during a break in performances.

HHS Ellen Diehl practicing along the sidelines during a home game.

From left are HMS Anna Fox and Lathea Watts.

HHS performs at all varsity home basketball games sending consistent support from the bleachers.

HHS Brianna Norris at the head of the cheer team column during the national anthem.

Submitted photos from NCCCA competition:

Article by Sayla Roman and Brian O’Shea
Photos by Brian O’Shea
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