FAIRBORN — If you’ve noticed members of Baker Middle School’s competition cheerleading squad with an extra bounce in their step lately it’s for a good reason.
The team of 11 seventh and eighth graders won the prestigious Cheer Max competition in Columbus Jan. 21. The cheerleaders won the middle school division and were unexpectedly named grand champion.
It was their first time at Cheer Max and the team’s first competition win. When they heard their name over the public address system there was a sense of relief and euphoria.
“It’s about time because at first we were like struggling,” said eighth grader Casey Childress. “We finally just pulled together and told oursleves we could do it.”
Said seventh-grader Lizzie Rehs, “I was really shocked. At first we won first place (in our division). Then when they called us up for grand champion, everyone started freaking out. We were all jumping around. We were hugging each other. We were hugging our coaches.”
The win came as no surprise to co-coach Vanessa Whalen, who knew her team could hang with the best after finishing third out of 21 teams at the Greater Western Ohio Conference championship in December.
“I was very proud,” Whalen said. “Honestly not shocked because they’re just so good that they deserved to get this. We beat some high school teams too. They’ve competed really well in the past.”
Whalen’s faith in this bunch spread up and down the roster.
“We were really confident in ourselves,” said eighth grader Erin Thomas. “We have a lot of skilled tumpling. We also have really good jumps and a lot of our cheerleaders have been cheering for a long time so they have exprience with cheering. So I think that helps a lot.”
According to Rehs, the jumps and overall athletic ability made a huge difference.
“Some of our technique was better,” she said. “Also, I think we had higher tumbling. That was (worth) more points.”
The routine itself also separated the Baker team from the rest.
“It was creative because the guy that (choreographed) our routine, he’s like an all-star coach,” Childress said. “It was more unique. We added on things.”
The team received an extra surprise when it was announced their victory came with a fullly paid bid to the nationals in Florida in the spring. They won’t be able to attend due to limited time to raise money to travel and stay in a hotel.
But that hasn’t dampened the spirits of the team.
“It feels great,” Thomas said. “We practice a lot for it. We were really excited about (winning). It’s always nerve-wracking going into competitions because you don’t know how the other teams are going to do. Winning felt really great.”
The rest of the team includes seventh graders Cady Anne Munger and Emily Fasnacht and eighth graders India Crenshaw, Shaley Clay, Mollie Herald, Aaliyah Switzer, Alexis Dempsey, and Autumn Shaver. Other co-coaches are Jenna Fitch and Cherrelle Flores.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.