Cheerleaders compete for first time at UIL State Spirit Championships


courtesy of Toby Tucker

The cheerleaders perform for the judges in the UIL spirit state meet.

Students practicing jumps, stunts and cheers can be found in room after room. In one room, the girls in new purple uniforms have three minutes before their performance. Soon their time is up, and the squad is spiriting onto the mat with smiles brighter than the lights. Once set into the formation, their cheers quiet down. A single voice yells the call, and the rest follow in suit, pumping up the crowd with their abundance of spirit.

A group of cheerleaders competed at the state UIL spirit competition Jan. 18 at the Fort Worth Convention Center. The contest was divided into three separate performances: a band dance, a cheer and a fight song dance, each a minute in length. The 20 girls from the freshman, junior varsity and varsity squads who competed earned their spots on the competition squad by trying out in November. Although the first UIL spirit competition was four years ago, this is Canyon’s first time to compete.

“Basically, you have to come up with a routine,” senior Molly Bush said. “It’s a band dance, a fight song and some cheer you want to do. You make formations, and you practice. Then you go and compete. If you make it to finals after that, there’s situational cheers, and you basically do everything again.”

It was great to see so many competitive teams and seeing them get to perform and seeing our girls look amazing out there.”

— Tessa Westbrook, JV sponsor

The cheerleaders warmed up for a 3-minute period before each section competition. Junior varsity sponsor Tessa Westbrook said an entire floor was blocked off for practices, and the arena where the squad performed was larger than any stage on which they cheered before.

“You got to see all these different teams warming up,” Westbrook said. “It’s very hurried, but it’s so well organized that it doesn’t feel quite as rushed as you think it would going in. It was great to see so many competitive teams and seeing them get to perform and seeing our girls look amazing out there.”

Westbrook said the UIL competition has brought out a different style of cheer.

“It’s more intense than what we do at games, but there are a lot of skill restrictions on stunts that maybe you would see in other places,” Westbrook said. “It focuses on energy and drawing the crowd in. It was a really neat experience to be able to see.”

Bush said the squad had access to their score sheets after each set of their routine.

“Whenever it was your time to compete, you would compete and go off, and the other teams would go compete for whatever part of their routine they were in,” Bush said. “We would go back to a practice room and practice whatever else was next after that. Then we would get our score sheets and see what we did wrong, what we could fix for the next bit of our routine.”

There was a lot of different things we didn’t know had to be done like megaphones and signs.

— Molly Bush, 12

Bush said each set began by cheerleaders spiriting into their formation.

“You would do your cheer, spirit at the end and go off,” Bush said. “There was a lot of different things we didn’t know had to be done, like megaphones and signs. We don’t use those at regular football games or pep rallies, but it was a requirement for the competition. That was interesting and new to figure out and learn how to make those work into our routine.”

Westbrook said the squad attended extra practices before and after Christmas break in preparation.

“I felt incredibly nervous and very proud because we’ve had all these extra practices, and we’ve been focusing on things like synchronization and being loud,” Westbrook said. “It felt good to see they were able to take any critiques we’ve thrown their way and made use of those. They did a fantastic job. I’m so proud.”

The scores from each performance are compiled to determine if the squad performs in finals. Canyon did not make it to finals, but Bush said she still enjoyed the experience.

“It being my senior year, it was really devastating,” Bush said. “I didn’t think we were making it to finals, but it was still a fun thing. It was good experience for the squads to go this year and the years after that.”

Westbrook said the squad will continue to attend the annual competition.

It was good experience for the squads to go this year and the years after that.”

— Molly Bush, 12

“We walked out of that competition, and I think everyone was exhausted and ready to go to bed, but immediately us as sponsors were talking about what we can do next year, how we can improve, what we can do differently and what we want to keep the same,” Westbrook said. “It was really exciting, taking the energy at the end of that competition and already trying to make those plans going forward and seeing how we can be better every year.”

Westbrook said since the girls are from different squads, performing as one bonded the group.

“I know our skills have improved some, but I think even more so, it’s brought the whole group closer,” Westbrook said. “There’s always kind of this varsity, JV, freshman individual groups. You still see that some, but having a chance for everyone to go compete in one group brought everyone closer. You could see that support coming from all sides. If one person messed up, they were supported by five other people.”