They've got spirit: Jackson cheerleading squad wins awards at three-day camp

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fourteen girls stretched out in the South Elementary cafeteria. Sophomores, juniors and seniors, they all had one thing on their mind: cheering.

Once a week during the school year and twice a week during the summer the Jackson High School's cheerleading squad, led by two coaches, get together and practice, readying themselves to give their all for Jackson's football and basketball games.

They recently attended a National Cheerleaders Association three-day summer camp held at Southeast Missouri State University. The camp brought together more than 400 cheerleaders from schools across the state. Jackson's squad won several awards.

But besides the awards, but there were other benefits that couldn't be measured.

Kelli Niswonger, a second-year coach who teaches high school business classes at Jackson High School, said one of the biggest benefits to the camp was team contacts and team buildings.

"There were less distractions," she said. The campers, plus the coaches, had to share dorm rooms in Towers, forcing them to be together for three days straight.

"They've grown to work well together," Niswonger said.

The biggest award the team won was the National Championship Bid Winner, which recognizes the best technical cheerleading skills. Winning the award qualified the squad to compete at the national level.

They also won the Spirit Stick, which was given to the squad for showing the most spirit and enthusiasm throughout the camp. This was perfect for Logan Clippard, a junior who also was one of two squad members to become an all-American team member.

"I like getting the team motivated and the crowd hyped up," Clippard said. "It's a big adrenaline rush."

She and the other all-American team member, Tabby Martin, won awards for skills including jumping, tumbling, spirit, yelling and overall appeal.

There were several all-American nominees from the squad -- Shailey Boaz, Clippard, Sarah Cronenbold, Valerie Drewett, Brittney Koch, Martin and Tayylor Matlock.

The team won the S.P.O.T. Award for using safety while stunting and spotting. One of the teams's favorite stunts is a basket toss, which involves throwing a girl in the air and then catching her.

McKenzie Qualls, a sophomore, has been cheering since eighth grade. She said the skills and the effort it takes to do stunts correctly makes it her favorite part of cheering.

"Cheerleading is more of a sport than you would think," she said.

Cronenbold, a sophomore, has been cheering since eighth grade, when Matlock got her involved. Cronenbold said she knows her personality matches cheering.

"I'm an outgoing crowd performer," she said.

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