Apr. 27—Stand up and let out a big cheer, because both Somerset High School and Pulaski County High School have a lot to shout about.
The two schools sent cheerleading teams down to Florida this weekend to attend the 2021 National High School Cheerleading Championship, and both came back with high marks.
The PCHS team took second place in the Medium D2 Division. SHS took second in the Small Varsity Co-ed Game Day Division and third in Small Varsity 2.5 Minute Routine Division 2.
Both coaches — Beth Bruner for SHS, Aislynn Frei for PCHS — said they were incredibly proud of their teams, especially because of the unique circumstances this year's competition was under.
For starters, this was the first on-stage competition for these teams this year — neither the regional nor the state competitions have been held yet.
"I described it as having the Super Bowl before your regular season," Frei said.
She said it was unusual not having done any of the usual steps to get to this point. As a result, "All these new girls, they stepped on the big stage, and 'wham.' Very different," Frei said.
"This was a hard year because these kids had not gotten to compete in a live UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) competition all year," said Bruner. "Everything we did was virtually. So it's really hard when your first real competition is down at in the National Championships."
The challenge was especially hard for those who are in their first year of competition.
As Frei explained, "To throw them into the biggest competition of the year as their first one, I was nervous. I knew there would be jitters, even for the returning girls."
But, as acknowledged above, the coaches were proud of the way the teams handled it.
Bruner said of her team, "They walked out on that finals mat and they gave the best performance of the day in their division, hitting everything in their routine solidly. It's amazing to think that this team didn't make it out of Game Day prelims last year. And now, they came down here and are bringing home a second and third place in the nation. We are excited to watch them compete their Game Day routine this coming Saturday in our KHSAA Region Championships, and hopefully again at the State Championships.
Frei explained another change from what the teams normally experience, that of not having a full audience to work off of. Instead, only those who were registered to attend for one particular school were allowed in the auditorium while that team preformed.
Frei said that when one team finished, that group's audience was ushered out. Then, staff would clean the auditorium very quickly, rotate which seats people were allowed to use, and get the next group in, all in around five minutes.
For some teams who may not have had a lot of support, the lack of an audience may have been difficult.
For PCHS, though, Frei said their team had a tremendous amount of support. In all, she said there were around 90 people, including the team, who went down this year.
Bruner said that attendance was down because of COVID, but said a lot of top teams still turned up.
"The team has had a wonderful time down here," Bruner said. "We were so fortunate to be able to come because so many Kentucky teams had to compete virtually. Pulaski high school and Somerset High school were both lucky to get to come down here and represent our county. I'm very proud of my team and Pulaski on our performances."
Frei said, too, that she was glad to see both teams do so well.
Frei added, "I would personally like to thank the school board that allowed us to go, and our administration that was so supportive, because they certainly didn't have to do that. We're just grateful they gave us the opportunity to represent the school."
SHS's team consisted of: Seniors Molly Loy, Kennedy Boots, Caden Maynard, Addi Bowling and Halee Melton; Juniors Anna Claire Ellnor, McKayla Waters, Autumn Phelps, Courtney Minton, Emma Ashlock and Macy Notfleet; Sophomores Bre Smith, Blakeleigh Helton, Preslie Skidmore and Guy Bailey; Freshman Grace Thompson, Makayla Blankenship, Jenna Combs and Karly Terry; and Eighth Grader Audrei Kiser.
PCHS's team consists of: Seniors Madisyn Dean, Adriana Fields, Abby Johnson, Kiley Kelly, Hunter Mayfield and Rami Todd; Juniors Erin Atwell, Zoey Hampton, Tori Inabnitt and Allie Molden; Sophomores Madalyn Baker, Taylor Brown, Gracie Fain, Emma Langford, Brylee Perkins, Morgan Whitis and Bethany Young; Freshman Adilynn Frei, Alivia Smith and Addie Wesley; and Eighth Graders Sophie Brown, Shelbie Harris and Abbey Wallin.