As the school day ends, the work may be over for some high school students, but not for area cheerleaders gearing up for this week’s University Interscholastic League Texas Spirit Championships.
Waxahachie, Midlothian Heritage, Life Waxahachie, Midlothian, Red Oak, Ennis and Ferris High Schools will be among those competing Friday and Saturday at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Midlothian High and Midlothian Heritage cheerleaders took to the mats Monday night to polish up their performances in preparations of going head-to-head with other squads in their respective division.
Each time Midlothian cheer coach Joyce Griffith adjusted the routine and told her girls to try again, looks of determination spread across their faces. They were determined to have a flawless routine — hoping it would be enough to crush the competition this weekend.
“Our team’s drive and commitment, along with energy and spirit, will set us apart from the competition on Saturday,” Griffith said.
Panther cheerleaders began working on the three separate categories of the competition: band dance, situational chant (offense or defense) and fight song in September. While the girls do many of these routines at weekly games and pep rallies, the competition floor is not nearly as long as a football field, so getting every aspect right with limited space can prove challenging. Griffith said the team made changes to their fight song to better fit the confines of the competition floor while still showcasing their skills.
“We (also) hired and spent hours with a professional choreographer to ensure we were maximizing our talent of skills to our greatest benefit within the cheer competition score sheets,” Griffith said. “In November, we attended a UCA regional competition in Lewisville, where we did very well — second only to one other team in our division. This division has great talent, and all teams will be tough, but we know that our Ellis County and district rivals — Red Oak and Waxahachie — will definitely be (tough) competition.”
The Panther cheer team is typically composed of 35 young men and women, but because of UIL rules, only 30 team members will be able to compete in the 5A Division 1 competition. Much like football playoff seeding, 5A Division I is reserved for schools with an enrollment at the higher end of the 5A classification.
Because Heritage has fewer students, The Jaguar cheer squad will be competing against other 4A schools for their division title. Instead, they will be pitted against other 4A and smaller 5A schools across the state, such as Ennis, Ferris, and Life Waxahachie.
After finishing 21st last year and missing the finals by three-tenths of a point, the Waxahachie cheer squad returns to the UIL competition more determined than ever to bring home a victory.
“We really used what we learned from last year,” Waxahachie cheer coach Erica Fritz said. “We evaluated our strengths and weaknesses from our scorecards and are building upon what we started last year in our first year of competition.”
Fritz said the team started their routine earlier this year and enlisted the help of a UCA choreographer who shared knowledge and helpful insights from a judging perspective.
The Waxahachie team is made up of 21 cheerleaders, one mascot, three flag crew members, and three coaches who have practiced weekly for months to make sure their routine is sharp enough to secure a spot in the finals. Waxahachie will be competing against neighboring Midlothian and Red Oak, as well as other schools from across the state for the 5A Division 1 title – all of which are stiff competition Fritz said.
“We have a strong group of really talented girls,” Fritz said. “They have an amazing work ethic. Most of them have been together for many years and have outside competitive cheer experience also. They do really well under pressure.”
The UIL competition begins Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and ends Saturday at 9 p.m. Schools from Ellis County will compete on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students aged 5-18 per session. All-Session adult tickets can also be purchased for $45.