Cheer Team Wins NCA State Champion Title


Cheer after winning NCA State Champion

Sitting on the mat floor next to 12 different high school teams in the Dallas Convention Center arena, girls began shaking and fidgeting. The speed of their breath increased faster and faster from the nerves. 

11 teams laughed and sang along with the music playing, while the Aledo cheer team sat in silence trying to prepare for the announcer to start calling out places. The noise was tuned out by all the “What ifs?” going through the team’s head. 

“Now for the top three teams,” the announcer said.

Did they miss all of the other places? Were they already called? Sitting there confused, Aledo cheer team realized they were not called yet, and it was down to the last two places. 

“And now, for second place…” 

The girls prepared themselves to be called for the second place spot. 

“Independence High School.” 

With that, the Aledo team jumped up and down knowing that they would be leaving the NCA State Championship Competition with a first place title in the 5A Game Day Super Varsity division, the first time in history that Aledo cheer won first place at a competition. 

 “I was so nervous for our team but I was happy no matter what we placed and was so beyond proud of our team,” senior captain Ruthie Pulliam said. 

The UIL cheer team, consisting of varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders, competed in the 5A Game Day Super Varsity Division, which is a division based on the school’s UIL size, along with how many girls competed on mat. 

“These types of competitions consisted of showing what traditional cheerleading was really about– leading the crowd,” junior Ellis Johnson said. “In game day cheer competitions, the teams that compete are judged on how they properly perform and lead a crowd in a three-minute performance including a band dance, a cheer and the school fight song.” 

The Aledo competition team this year was different than most. Normally, varsity cheerleaders received an automatic spot on mat (or chance to compete) and JV cheerleaders had to try out to fill the rest of the spots because only thirty people are allowed on mat. Four alternates were also selected in case of injury or sickness. 

Since only eight cheerleaders were on JV, tryouts were held for everyone. Cheerleaders were required to perform a dance learned at cheer camp in the summer along with a small cheer/chant. Then judges narrowed it down to decide who would be on mat and who would be the two alternates. 

“After practicing this routine for months every single day during class and long, hard practices on Wednesday nights, our hard work officially paid off,” Johnson said.

In addition to the competition, teams not only cheered on the sidelines at games, they had two to three hour practices a week, set up for pep rallies, learned pep rally routines in one week and painted signs among other things. 

“I think since we placed well we received the credit we deserved,” Pulliam said, “but it is difficult to always be the one cheering for everyone else and the feeling not being reciprocated.” 

The cheerleaders began preparations on the competition routine at their first choreography practice in August. Cheer coach/choreographer from Fossil Ridge High School, Victoria Butler, choreographed Aledo cheer routines for many years.

“At the practice/choreography day where Butler initially created the routine, she had everything prepared and just had to stick us into the routine she had come up with in her head,” Johnson said. 

While learning this routine, the team also had to learn new words to the original school’s fight song.

“The way Butler decided to change it helped us be able to perform our school’s fight song in a way that we can visually appeal to a crowd along with the judges,” Johnson said. “With the new words to the fight song, we can allow for signs, megaphones and ripples to be used in the fight song section of our routine.”

Butler came once a month for clean ups and to make any necessary changes to the routine at the last minute. 

“It felt like all the hard work and long practices really paid off,” Pulliam said. “I felt so fulfilled and so driven to keep winning.” 

The UIL team competes again on Jan. 13 at the Fort Worth Convention Center for the UIL State Competition and then again Feb. 9-13 in Orlando, Florida at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for UCA Nationals. 

“Hopefully this remainder of the season will be full of wins,” Pulliam said. “The feeling is so amazing and it’s just more of me being proud of my team and the coaches.”