Heading into the Region 2-AAAA meet, Aubri Middleton and Kendall Eason had tempered their expectations for Evans' competition cheerleading squad.
The senior co-captains said the squad hit its entire routine just like it had hoped in the Nov. 6 meet at West Laurens High School in Dublin.
Still, when the places were set to be announced, both said they were just hoping to advance to the state meet by finishing among the top four teams.
Greenbrier, it was announced, had earned fourth place, then Ware County in third and Effingham County in second. They were the teams Middleton said she had considered the top contenders.
While she was still processing the information, Middleton said she heard Evans announced as the champion, the school's first region championship since 2003.
It didn't sink in right away.
"Me and Kendall kind of looked at each other," Middleton said. "We were like, 'Did we just hear that right?' It was like a two-second period where the whole squad was just sitting there.
"Once it finally hit us, we were going crazy. I don't think she'll admit it, but Mrs. Poss was crying."
Coach Adell Poss said this year has been a challenge because the team features nine freshmen among the 19 team members. Though in their first year of high school, Poss was quick to note that they have plenty of competitive experience.
"All of them except one has been in All-Star cheerleading," she said. "They're used to performing in a lot bigger arena than what they did at region."
The pressure was on the co-captains to try to help the freshmen ease into the new atmosphere.
"Normally, we have only a couple of freshmen," Middleton said. "This year, we had nine. Nine freshmen, so it's a lot of people looking up to you that you don't know."
Extensive practice -- until 5 or 5:30 p.m. every weekday -- helped iron out any issues. The schedule, Eason said, is more demanding than most realize.
"It is very intense," she said. "A lot of people think, 'It's cheerleading. They don't do anything.' It's a lot harder than people think."
With the victory, Evans automatically advanced to the second day of the state competition in Columbus. It was completed Saturday.
Middleton said the pressure was off for the state meet after a region victory. Eason said the unexpected nature of the win made it unique.
"Since I wasn't expecting it," she said, "it made it so much better."
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