RICHMOND — To win a high school state championship in any sport isn’t easy. To repeat, that’s unlikely. But to win three in a row, well that’s an accomplishment not achieved often.
“It’s unbelievably difficult,” said Stuarts Draft High School competition coach Tammy Carter.
The Cougars came through with their third straight Class 2 state championship on Saturday at VCU’s Siegel Center, establishing themselves as a recent dynasty in the sport.
Despite two falls in the preliminary round, the Cougars emerged as the leading contender for the title with a score of 244.5 points among the eight teams competing in Class 2.
But in order to defend their championship, the Cougars needed to fend off challenges from Page County, Central-Wise and Appomattox, who were looking to make their own history.
Another obstacle was nerves and staying focused in the moment, which always play an important role in the fast-moving environment of competition cheerleading.
“There’s so much pressure,” Carter said.
There’s also a lot of waiting around, trying to stay mentally sharp as the other teams take to the competition mat.
A total of 40 teams were vying for state championships in five classifications.
The Cougars were 12.5 points ahead of Central-Wise after the first round, but all the first-round scores are thrown out, with the top four (of eight) advancing to the finals.
Finally, after the Class 5 and Class 6 schools (schools with high enrollments from Richmond, Tidewater and Northern Virginia) had completed their final rounds, the awards were annnounced.
Central came in with a score of 247 (out of a possible 300), topping the Cougars’ first round total.
But even though the Draft had one stumble in the second round routine, the Cougars improved their score to 250, claiming the crown for the third straight year. Coach Carter explained that without the one fall in the final, the Cougars’ could have scored upwards of 255, a stunning total for a Class 2 team.
“They’re so talented, it’s incredible and they did their best,” Carter said.
Competing in Class 3, Fort Defiance, the Region 3C runnerup, scored 198 points, but were eliminated in the first round among the eight schools in its group.
“They did a clean routine and executed everything we asked them to do,” said FDHS cheer coach Melissa Hill. “We were ready at regionals, but the judging gets different at this level. Still we are proud of what they did this season. To finish in the top eight is a huge accomplishment.”
Fort Defiance is one of the smallest schools competing in Class 3.
Also present at the state competition was Riverheads, which moved up from Class 1 and had to compete with the Class 2 schools because there aren’t enough Class 1 schools to have their own competition.
Competing against larger schools, the Gladiators made a solid showing, finishing seventh in the Class 2 division with a total of 179 points in the first round.