CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Civic Center will be buzzing with energy today as the high school cheer state championships hit the floor.Twenty-four squads (eight from each of the three classes) from across the state will descend upon the Capital City beginning at 10 a.m. to decide the state titlist in Class AAA, AA and A. Class A will begin the competition, followed by AA and AAA. (See box for order of performance.)Brooke (AAA), which has garnered 12 championships, and Tug Valley (AA), which has won three titles, are back to defend their championships, although the Panthers will be competing in Class A this year. Three-time defending Class A champion Clay-Battelle failed to advance out of last week's regional competition. The top two teams (winner and runner-up) from each of the eight regions move on to states.George Washington will be making history, appearing at states for the first time. The state cheer championships have been held since 1987."I'm very proud of them,'' said GW fourth-year coach Lori Davis. "It's a big accomplishment. They've worked very, very hard for it. We've been building a program the last four years and we're getting to the point where I think they'll see GW at states much more often now."We have started to put an emphasis on competing as well as supporting the other sports. We want to be athletes, too. Since I have come to the school, we have put an emphasis on the actual sport side - stunting and tumbling.''The Patriots were runner-up to Riverside in the regional."We had always been pretty much at the bottom or last,'' said Davis. "We have an excellent group of kids and parents. Their parents are so supportive.
"When [the cheerleaders are] outside of my practice they go to tumbling to try and improve their skills. The school supports cheerleading and has allowed us to build a program to get to the point where we can actually compete at states.''GW has had much success of late in its other sports, and now the cheerleaders are ready to make their mark."They're very proud of themselves,'' Davis said. "They've had so much support from their peers. It's been really great for them. As cheerleaders, we have been at all those state tournaments cheering on our school and sports."This is the first time that we get to go and have an audience there to support us. I think we stand a good chance to place well. We have a very talented group of girls that's going to go out there and put their heart and soul into it. We hope we place at the top. It's going to be a hard road for us, but we're willing to take that chance and go give it everything we have.''In addition to GW and Riverside, Winfield - which won its only title in AA in 2003 - is the only other school from the Kanawha Valley to advance to states. Brooke, Jefferson, Lewis County, Logan and Wheeling Park round out the AAA field. Brooke, Jefferson and Logan, which was last year's runner-up at states, also won regional crowns.East Fairmont, Independence, Liberty Raleigh, Robert C. Byrd, Lincoln, Mingo Central, North Marion and Tolsia, which has 12 titles, make up the AA participants. East Fairmont, Robert C. Byrd, Liberty Raleigh and Mingo Central captured regional titles. Lincoln finished as state runner-up last year.Wheeling Central, Fayetteville, Tug Valley, South Harrison, Moorefield, Williamstown, Tyler Consolidated and Wahama round out the Class A field. Central, South Harrison, Tug Valley and Williamstown took regional titles.
Nitro's Kathy Barr will be recognized during the competition as the state coach of the year. Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for students.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.