ABOITE — The Woodside Middle School cheerleading team went into this season with their eyes on the prize. The words on their team t-shirts said it all: “READY FOR A 3PEAT.”
The seventh- and eighth-grade squad did not disappoint; the girls became three-time state champions at the Indiana Cheer State Championship at Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis Oct. 21.
“We treated every warm-up and practice like it was time to compete, and I think it really helped us win,” Megan McLaughlin, team co-captain, said.
For the third year in a row, the team wowed judges with their routine.
“When you look at their score sheets for this year, they were coming neck and neck with some of those large varsity (A division) high school teams,” Head Coach Apple English-Fenton said.
The North Side High School graduate has been coaching the Woodside team for six years.
There are 22 seventh- and eighth-grade girls on the team. It’s a talented group, but it’s the team’s strong foundation of support that has propelled them to such a high level of competition, English-Fenton said. From a dedicated coaching staff to parents who make sure their student makes it to practice, it’s a team effort, she said.
The school’s administrators and teachers have also been very supportive of the team and respect cheerleading as a sport, she added. She was pleasantly surprised when the school’s athletic director, Jeff Beck, attended a cheer competition this year.
“In all those years of coaching, I never had an athletic director come to a cheer competition,” she said.
“In other schools, I’ve noticed that they don’t necessarily do that and I think that’s because it falls under that stereotype of ‘shake your pom-poms, fluff your hair.’”
The team’s season spans from April to January. In the spring and summer, the team trains two days a week at school and one day a week at Stealth Athletix, a competitive cheer gym. During the fall and winter, they practice five days a week.
At Stealth Athletix Nov. 14, the cheerleaders were practicing to cheer at basketball games. The girls landed multiple backflips, lifted each other into the air and performed the splits.
Some school squads that compete at such a high level lose sight of the important role they play at their schools, English Fenton said, but the Woodside team has never forgotten that their primary role is to support the other teams and be ambassadors of the school.
With the competitive season behind them, the girls are enjoying spending time together as a team. They’re looking forward to preparing their Christmas half time routine for basketball games complete with ugly Christmas sweaters and kicklines.
English-Fenton said she’s proud of this year’s team for how they’ve worked together and encouraged each other.
“This particular group… and this is really rare for junior high… they have never given me one day of drama. In 24 years of coaching, I’ve never had a year like that. They look out for each other, they love each other,” she said, wiping her eyes as she teared up with emotion.
“Oh my gosh, they are good kids. They really are.”
The 2018 team includes: Paige Aichele, Kate Benz, Jocelyn Burry, Katie DeGregory, Holland Edgar, Haley Emerick, Leah Frazier, Taya Godt, McKenzie Greaf, Amanda Householder, Audrey Long, Abigail Mathison, Megan McLaughlin, Rachel Musgrave, Katelynn Nutter, Katie Parent, Alli Sullivan, Haylie Stockman, Julianna Sunderland, Avery Tarrence, Taylor Till and Rachel Tribolet.
The Woodside cheer team is led by head coach Apple English-Fenton, assistant coach Amy Richman, trainer Tifani Guin and choreographer/trainer Joe Humbrecht.