‘May have been the best yet’

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By Brady Extin | The Times-Post

PENDLETON — The Pendleton Heights cheerleading team recently competed in the biggest competition of the season — nationals.

And they made the most of it.

At the 2024 UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship, the Arabians advanced to the finals in two separate divisions, where they placed 11th and 12th. The competition took place from Feb. 9 to Feb. 12 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

“The placement was definitely exciting since we knew we were in the most difficult divisions in Game Day and Traditional,” head coach Brenda Jamerson said. “The most exciting was the fact that we put six nearly perfect routines on the mat over a three-day period, routines that were very complex and the most difficult Pendleton Heights has performed at the national level.

“It was the most rewarding competitive situation I have ever experienced as a coach at NHSCC.”

Pendleton Heights competed in both the Medium Varsity Division I Traditional and the Large Varsity Division I Game Day. Advancing to the finals takes making it out of the preliminary group and then out of the semifinals.

The Arabians were able to do so in both divisions.

“Preparation for this trip begins on the first day of tryouts in the spring. As coaches, we are looking way ahead of the athletes with multiple scenarios in our minds in choosing the team. As a game day and competitive team, our requirements to be on the varsity team are much more stringent than if we only did sideline cheer. We go to camp in the summer where our goals are set and we get a good idea of the work ethic of the team as a whole. Once we receive our choreography, the goal is to not back down or water it by the time we get through fall competitions and head into national season,” Jamerson said.

“This trip is earned by every girl that is on the mat. I don’t believe any of them take for granted that this is owed to them or that this is a vacation. While it is in Orlando, the real work and payoff happens on the mats at ESPN. I think every team that attends this competition with the proper preparation and coaching, learns the lesson of what hard work can do for you. It’s a confidence-building process, a trust process, a fight-or-flight process. It teaches the tools for success in life, not just on a cheerleading mat. As a coach, along with my assistant coach Charlcie Holden, we could not have asked for more from our athletes. Their growth from last March to February as athletes, teammates and humans is what every coach wants to see in their program”

The “Game Day” division showcases more traditional cheerleading and doesn’t include tumbling. It includes four categories that the team will be scored on — band chant, situational sideline, cheer and fight song. A different panel of judges scores the team in each area, along with overall impression, and gives them a total out of 100 after the four categories.

In the Large Varsity Division I Game Day the team placed 12th overall with a score of 89.7. In the semifinals, it placed fifth with a score of 93.7 and in the preliminary group it scored 92.9 to move on.

“The premise is to mimic a game day experience within three minutes,” Jamerson said. “It’s a lot to unpack.”

The other division the Arabians made it to the finals in was Traditional, which showcases the other side of cheerleading and includes more tumbling, jumps and choreography.

“Traditional consists of a 45-second cheer and a 1:45 music section with tumbling, jumps, choreo, stunts and pyramids. In our music section alone we had three tumbling sections, a total of 20 stunts, and two intricate pyramids,” Jamerson said. “Traditional routines are more performance-oriented and require a lot of technical difficulty.”

In the Traditional competition, Pendleton Heights placed 11th overall with a score of 85.9. To advance to the finals, the team placed sixth in the semifinals with a score of 87.4 and advanced out of their preliminary group with a score of 84.7.

While Pendleton Heights has competed at nationals annually, this year may have been the team’s best, according to Jamerson.

“We’ve had great years and we’ve had years where growth was needed, but this year may have been the best yet. The future for these girls is bright, and I expect no less from them going into the 2024-2025 season,” Jamerson said. “For our graduating seniors, we cannot be more thankful for their leadership this year and wish them the best in their future plans.”