After winning the regional title in July, the Van-Far competitive cheerleading squad started practicing on their state championship routine during the third week of August.
For seven hours a week, the squad dedicated themselves to the routine, which didn’t include their countless hours spent cheering at football games and other activities.
Every Sunday and Wednesday night was filled with practice time. There weren’t any days off. Even on days with no school, three to four hour practice sessions were scheduled.
All of their hard work paid off this past Saturday in the Class 1 Large category for the Missouri Cheerleading Coaches Association State Championships held at the University of Missouri.
Van-Far received a score of 241 to win the state title by 22 points over Penney.
“It’s still a very surreal story for the both of us,” said Carlyle, who has 12 years coaching cheerleaders alongside Otis who has been coaching for 16 years. “That’s why it’s so hard to put it into words. It’s something we’ve been working hard on for a long time.”
The state championship is the first won by a female team in school history.
“It’s a lot of first; we made a lot of history,” Carlyle said. “This is also a victory for the past cheerleaders who are all part of this.”
The state championship routine was much different than the one in regionals where they were forced to compete with just 11 of the 12 cheerleaders due to sickness.
With a healthy squad came added jumps and tumbling, one more basket toss, a more difficult pyramid, and more.
A change was made Thursday night before the state championships to alleviate some stress, helping the squad pull off a confident and solid routine.
“They were prepared,” Otis noted. “They have been hitting their stunts and walked in feeling very confident.”
The squad was the first team to perform during in their category.
“That could be a blessing or a curse,” Carlyle added. “If we hit the stunts, they (the judges) will remember.”
She said judges, with a good routine, would have to compare Van-Far’s with every following squad as a bench mark of what they first saw during the event.
When the cheerleaders returned to Vandalia, they received a police escort on Main St. to cel-ebrate with area patrons their big state championship victory. The squad also produced a routine during the Van-Far Fall Sports Program on Monday night. Jody Bauman was also a coach for the squad in her second year assisting Van-Far’s cheerleaders.
“(From football to competition) this is the most talented group of young ladies and a young man we’ve ever had,” Carlyle said during the Van-Far Fall Sports Program on Monday night.
Plans are currently in the works for the cheerleaders to receive designed state championship rings. A professional photo is also being taken for the squad to hang up on the wall in or near the school gym.