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STATE CHAMPS
WCHS football cheerleaders win title
cheer champs
Members of the WCHS football cheerleaders, who won a state championship at MTSU, are, front row, from left, Zoye Henry, Koley Campbell, Heidy-Lin Teeters and Kassidy Byars. Second row, Julya West, Araya Buchanan, Ellie Noblin, Kensley Whiteaker, Abby Reagan and Caitlyne Hutton. Back row, Rylee Ryan, Ashlynn Wells, Lexie Thomas, Deryn Allen, Emily Hoch, Bella Blankenship, Gracie Cowan and Megan Davenport.

Every step was synchronized, every tumble timed perfectly. Chemistry built over years and routines the group trained daily on for months shown through when the WCHS football cheerleaders took center stage at the TSSAA state event.

When the last bit of spirit had spread through the arena and the cheerleaders had struck their final pose with a smile, everybody’s eyes began to well up. Coming off the stage, the squad cried tears of joy knowing they had completed a perfect routine.

The judges agreed, naming Warren County the state champions over a packed field at MTSU.

“When the announcer called out the second-place team and it wasn’t us, I knew we still had a great chance,” said WCHS cheer coach Stacey Elam. “When he said we were the new state champions, it was the best feeling in the world.

“We were runners-up last year and we wanted the championship this year. We were looking at some amazing programs that have state and national titles under their belt. The girls went out on the floor and blew the competition away.”

Hearing they had won was met with elation by the squad, but it wasn’t long before then that the girls needed some time to regroup. Finishing a perfect routine had drained every ounce of energy from the talented group.

“Right after our music stopped and we hit a perfect routine, tears of joy were flowing from everybody. It was the best feeling in the world. I knew that we did the best we could do,” said senior Koley Campbell.

Gracie Cowan added, “My entire team couldn’t help but cry because we were so proud of what we put out there.”

The announcement served as validation of the long days and nights learning routines, ones which were put together in the summer and perfected throughout the year.

“Winning the state championship has been a big goal of ours for a while now. The feeling of finally reaching that goal after months of hard work is indescribable,” said senior Araya Buchanan. “When they announced our name as state champions, I knew all the long practices and work was absolutely worth that moment with my team.”

Buchanan found herself in the middle of the team’s final breakdown after winning, hoisting the plaque as her team shouted and cheered in delight. For 10 seniors, it was the culmination of years of training side-by-side, building a dominating group that has won events in Murfreesboro, Nashville and Birmingham this season.

The final circle filled with smiles and laughter was sweet relief compared to the tension of taking the stage before the finals.

“Before running onto the competition floor at state, I had mixed emotions. I was nervous – the pressure was on,” said senior Heidy-Lin Teeters. “We had won every competition so far this season, so we had to win this one too. It was nerve racking because we had never won state and I was also sad because it is my senior year.

“Even with the nervousness and sadness, I had a feeling of confidence. We had hit a perfect routine at every other competition, so I knew we could do it again. And we did.”

When perfection is the goal, and any small misstep can be the difference from winning and another runner-up finish, nervousness is expected. Overcoming it isn’t easy, but it’s easier with a veteran team.

“Even though cheer has been my life, walking on that blue mat will always get the butterflies flying,” said senior Zoye Henry. “(Being) runner up last year really gave my team the motivation to strive for first this year. I’ve always known my team was special with loads of talent, but receiving first really gives us the drive to better ourselves for the rest of the season.”

With the victory, the WCHS cheerleaders earned a bid to compete in the UCA National Competition Feb. 7-9 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. 

It’s no surprise the group which has won every event this season has already hit the mat to train. There’s only one expectation for the trip for Florida.

“We’re not done yet,” said coach Elam. “We want to go to Florida and bring home a national title.”

It’s hard to bet against the perfect team performing another perfect routine.