Lakeside High School coach Christa Burch has athletes who have had teeth knocked out, and another who has suffered a broken nose - three different times.
At Evans High School, meanwhile, coach Kelly Garnto has seen two of her team members sidelined for the season with back injuries.
Burch and Garnto aren't new football coaches in Columbia County - they lead the competition cheerleading squads at their respective schools.
"Our biggest problem right now is just keeping everybody healthy," Garnto said. "We don't wear pads or helmets, and you have girls flying through the air. There's a lot of wear and tear."
Prep cheer squads perform routines, but their sport is far from routine.
The cheerleaders' two-and-a-half minute performances feature tumbling, jumps, cheering and dancing - and there's only one opportunity to impress the judges and post a score.
"It's unlike any other sport," Burch said. "If you have a bad day, there's no chance to pull out a win."
Lakeside hasn't had many bad days this season.
The squad, which is coached by Kelli Hardin and Burch, has placed first in competitions at Loganville and Eagles Landing, took second at a big event in Washington County, and was third at Oconee County.
"We have a very young team, but the same girls cheer in football, and they've been practicing every day after school for at least two hours," Burch said. "About half the team is in their first year, and they've been working on routines since the season started in November, but a lot of them compete on all-star squads in the summer."
The Evans High School Varsity Cheerleading Squad won first place at the Golden Hawk Cheer Classic on Jan 10, 2004. They also received the Grand Champion award by having the highest overall score. Team members are: Chrissy Price (front row, from left) Kaysie Patterson, Melissa Marcantoni (captain), Nicole Thomas (co-captain), Kayla Wheatley and Samantha McCormick; Ashton Speegle (second row, from left) Ellisha Sims, Lauren Wetherbee, Katie Osborne, Kasey Bandy and Megan Clendenning; Gabi Pinckney (back row, from left) Holly Halliday, Ashleigh Raborn, Whitney Harbin, Chelsea Beavers, Randi Jones and coach Kelly Garnto.
Evans is blessed with experience this season. The squad lost only four seniors from the 19-member squad that claimed the Region 7-AAAAA crown last season, and the returnees have turned it up a notch.
Evans took first at the Golden Hawk Cheer Classic (and also was named Grand Champions of the competition) and the Mustang Magic Cheer Invitational. The squad added third-place showings at the Middle Georgia Cheer Classic and the Peachtree Classic Cheerleading Invitational.
"Their tumbling skills make them stand out," Garnto said. "When they walk out on the mat, the nerves disappear. They just stay focused."
Lakeside competes in the Region 4-AAAA meet Saturday in Camden County, and moves on to the Class AAAA state finals Feb. 6-7 in Columbus. Lakeside won region two years ago, and narrowly missed a repeat at region last season, so the Panthers are hoping to reclaim the trophy this time around.
"We're working for a good win at region," Burch said. "We have 20 girls, and while we use 16 in competitions, all 20 have competed. If someone gets hurt we can sub right in."
Evans competes in the Region 7-AAAAA meet Saturday at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Ga., and in the Class AAAAA state finals Feb. 6-7 in Columbus.
If Lakeside and Evans can win region titles, they would be exempt from the first-day preliminary competition at state, and move directly into the final eight teams on Feb. 7.
Garnto says her athletes have set a goal to defend their region title, then take a shot at winning the state championship.
"The Atlanta teams are very good. They have girls that have been cheering since they were born," Garnto said. "To win a state championship we'll have to stick all our stunts and make everything sharp."
Evans Competition Squad
Kasey Bandy, Chelsea Beavers, Megan Clendenning, Holly Halliday, Whitney Harbin, Randi Jones, Melissa Marcantoni, Samantha McCormick, Katie Osborne, Kaysie Patterson, Gabi Pinckney, Chrissy Price, Ashleigh Raborn, Ellisha Simms, Ashton Speegle, Nicole Thomas, Lauren Wetherbee, Kayla Wheatley
Lakeside Competition Squad
Alison Evans, Amber Lauren, Desiree Metzler, Malisa Thompson, Kristen Murphy, Jocilyn Yarnell, Melissa Eustice, Taylor Jones, Kristen O'Connor, Courtney Banks, Megan Bryer, Lauren Chandler, Meaghan Elam, Hillary Greene, Maggie Pepin, Ashley Severson, Bridget Gaughan, Meghan Cox, Erin Little, Kelsey Little
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