State Cheer - Stuarts Draft

Logan Bogert/The News Virginian

Stuarts Draft celebrates after being named VHSL Class 2 cheerleading state champions on Saturday.

RICHMOND — In winning its third straight competition cheerleading championship, the Stuarts Draft High School team didn’t expect that it would be a foregone conclusion.

The Shenandoah District and Region 2B champions came to Richmond with the same goal they had worked diligently for in 2017 and 2018.

Head coach Tammy Carter and her assistants were wearing shirts that read “3 Isn’t Free,” acknowledging both the goal and the difficulty that faced the Cougars.

Despite two falls in the first round, which understandably created a degree of angst, the Cougars shook the mishaps off and smiled through the disappointment.

Overcoming the obvious adversity, the Cougars finished their routine in strong fashion, emerging as the Class 2 favorite with the highest total in the preliminary round.

“Our routine is so difficult,” Carter said. “But our team is so athletic.”

Clearly, the Cougars performed the hardest routine among their rivals.

The degree of difficulty helped the Cougars rack up points to offset the falls.

But being the front-runner in the first round, didn’t guarantee anything. The first-round scores were thrown out, giving the surviving four teams an equal chance in the finals.

“We were nervous,” said Kari Williams, the Region 2B Cheerleader of the Year and the only senior on the 2019 squad.

The Cougars improved in the finals round, posting a total of 250 points, which exceeded their scores from the previous two championship teams.

“I think that this team has genuine enthusiasm,” Carter said.

The 2019 Cougars are not only the Class 2 champions, but are one of the elite teams among all competing teams.

Their score on Saturday was higher than two of the Class 6 schools, which have as much as four times the number of students to form a cheer team.

The future continues to be bright for the Cougars, as they return everyone except Williams from this team, including freshman Zane Marshall, the only guy on the squad.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Marshall said. “It’s crazy, but everything has paid off. I kinda enjoy being the only guy.”

For Williams, the accomplishment of this team will never be forgotten.

“This is my last year so that’s so special,” Williams said, “It’s a family and this is a night to remember.”

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