Football season began just over a month ago with Columbia County area cheerleaders helping their teams in the background.
The Greenbrier High School cheerleaders lead their fans in a cheer during Friday's game against Evans.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
On Saturday, cheerleading squads across the state will take center stage.
The upcoming weekend is the earliest that competition cheerleading squads can hold a contest, according to the Georgia High School Association. After a statewide vote from coaches in the GHSA, the competition cheerleading season was moved up two months to keep the season only in the fall semester.
The move forces many squads to pull double-duty.
In Columbia County most squads cheer at football games Friday night. Many cheerleading competitions are on Saturday. The result could be some very tired cheerleaders.
"We have to work overtime right now," Evans cheerleading captain Kayla Wheatley said. "We're cheering at football games, but we're also teaching our new girls our routine."
Fortunately for Wheatley's squad, Evans head cheerleading coach Kelly Garnto knew the change was coming. Garnto said with the football games set, she was forced to work around the team's road games.
"I was aware of that when I made the schedule this year," she said. "I tried not schedule competitions on the day after we had away football games."
Although the schedule change has put the squeeze on many squads, the move does have a silver lining. With competition cheering now only a fall semester sport, cheerleaders are now able to participate in spring sports.
"I'm going to try to run track this spring," Greenbrier cheerleading captain Jennifer Randolph said.
The Evans cheerleaders lead the team onto the field before the game against Greenbrier.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
In the 2005 competition cheering landscape in Columbia County, no one squad has fully distanced themselves as the best. In fact, each squad excels in different areas.
At Evans, Garnto said the four main areas in competition cheerleading are tumbling, stunting, jumps, and precision in movement.
"Tumbling is our strong suit this year," she said. "Kayla Wheatley and Jennifer Grant are our two best in that area."
This year's Evans squad returns from a 2004 season that ended well, but only after a slow start.
"Last year in region we didn't do so good," Evans co-captain Katie Osborne said. "We got third in region, but then we beat Lakeside and Greenbrier in state."
Greenbrier's cheer-leading squad hopes to see improvement from last season's second place finish in the region tournament. Head coach Kim Pippin said their success would come through the air.
"Our biggest strength this year is our jump," she said. "These girls can get way off the ground."
In competition cheering, squads stick with one routine throughout the season. Greenbrier's routine this year is a Wolfpack original.
"Ours is a patriotic and military theme," Pippin said.
Pippin said music for the routine includes I'm Proud to be an American and These Boots are Made for Walking.
Harlem's cheerleading squad is not in the same region as Greenbrier, Lakeside, and Evans, but this year's talent is just as good if not better.
"We have a lot of returning upperclassmen who have cheered since middle school," Harlem head coach Jimi Lane said.
Harlem's cheerleading squad hasn't quite been up to par in recent years. According to Lane, experience has made this season's squad improve.
"They know what it's like to be on the bottom," she said. "They're going to work their hardest to get to the top. I've never seen a group of 20 girls be able to work together as a unit like these girls have."
Augusta Christian's cheerleading squad has been around for years, but this year marks the first time the squad will participate in competition cheering.
Head coach Jaime McKie said the girls are excited about their first year of competition.
"We're learning as we go," McKie said. "We want them to have something they can be proud of."
The squad has already had a taste of competition. This past summer at a cheer camp at Presbyterian College, the team earned first place in the cheer division.
"These girls are so creative," McKie said. "I want it to be a good program."
The Augusta Christian squad has only three seniors, with captain Melanie Yarbrough leading the way. Two years ago, the squad had only six members but has since doubled to a full 12-member cheerleading roster.
"I'd love to see them place," McKie said.
Lakeside finished first in Region 2-AAAA competition last year, but slipped behind Evans in the state competition.
"We just had a bad day at state last year," Head Coach Christa Burch said. "Half our team is seniors. They're really excited about going back."
The squad has claimed the region crown four out of the last five years.
This season, the squad returns five out of six All-County Competition Cheerleaders including Jocilyn Yarnell, Hillary Greene, Maggie Pepin, Lauren Chandler and Kara Todd.
The Evans troupe leads a cheer at the start of the game.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Augusta Prep does field a cheerleading squad to cheer for all home basketball and soccer games, but does not participate in competition cheering.
"Right now, it doesn't look like there are any plans to do any competing," head coach Susan Koger said.
Nevertheless, the squad does pull double duty at times when the basketball and soccer seasons overlap. Coach Koger said though the squad does not compete, they do their job with dedication.
"They work just as hard and are just as spirited as anyone else," she said.
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