Stone Bridge High School, Ashburn, Va. (October 3, 2015) – The smiles went on before anyone could see them, out in the hallway beside the main gym as they waited their turn. When it came, the public-address announcer blared out their school’s name and nickname, exciting the assemblage of some thousand fans: Here come the cheerleaders!
A dozen and a half student-athletes, adorned in their school’s colors and those smiles, bounded cheerily onto the scene, all hopskips and handclaps and upstretched waves, as happy to see the spectators as the spectators were to see them. The cheerleaders arranged themselves on the halfcourt-sized mat in prescribed fashion, lowered their hands and heads and got serious. The crowd fell quiet.
Then the show started.
For three minutes they danced, stepped, chanted, stunted and cheered, to the beat of music and a capella. If you couldn’t tell what their favorite team was from their dress, you could tell just by listening:
“We’re building, tra-di-shun…!” intoned the ladies of John Champe High School.
“We are [clap clap] Patriots!” sang the two boys and 18 girls of Park View High School.
“We cheer for…twen-tee four!” came the call from the cheer team of Broad Run High School.
The grand finale of the Saturday afternoon was the performance of the Stone Bridge Bulldogs varsity squad, who cartwheeled, flipped and pyramided their way to an overall second-place finish in the 10-team standings. Their well-honed routine brought the house down.
Cheer teams are permitted five invitational appearances in a season. For ten varsity and four JV squads, one of those appearances was the Stone Bridge’s eighth annual Spirit Bowl, a spirited afternoon of competition cheerleading often featuring some of the top-notch programs in Northern Virginia – or all Virginia.
“This is a great event for teams to fine-tune their routines to get ready for championship competitions later on,” explained Joany Windows, Assistant Athletic
Director for Stone Bridge. “It’s a big step because they compete against teams they wouldn’t normally see until the region or state championships.”
For the last seven years up until this one, the Bulldogs’ cheer squad was head coached by Nick Marchio, who first brought the Spirit Bowl event to Stone Bridge.
“The whole reason for doing this invitational is to give feedback to teams before the conference, region and state finals,” Marchio said. “The competition in this region is so tight, for all these teams to come and compete at one event is a great thing.”
C.D. Hylton, a state finalist at the Group 6A level a year ago, won the event, while the Broad Run Spartans – who graduated nine from last year’s Group 5A state contender – backflipped their way to a very solid third place.
Broad Run opened with a 10-second rapid-fire musical segment, moving into a coordinated series of backflips as a massive Spartan sign was held high. Then came a minute or more of dance with extremely complex choreography.
The Spartans’ routine this year is anything but. Despite the smiles and pep and lightness of feet, they still perform with heavy hearts.
Three of Broad Run’s senior captains spoke about their “Cheer For 24,” an homage to Broad Run softball star and all-around good kid Madison Small, who died suddenly in April from bacterial menangitis, shocking and saddening the Broad Run family, the Loudoun community and far beyond.
The Broad Run’s girls’ hair was tied by ribbons glistening with a gold 24.
“It means a lot because when we say ‘We cheer for 24,’ we know we have a real purpose for being out there on the mat. It’s coming from our hearts,” said Taylor Hale.
“To us, it’s not just a regular cheer. She gives us something to cheer for. We get this extra energy to do better,” said Jessica Duncan.
“We’ve dedicated our whole season to her because she meant so much to our whole school. We do everything for her because she meant a lot, so we want to honor her in every way we can,” said Blake Taggart.
In addition to the Bulldogs and the Spartans, the Spirit Bowl mat was graced by Park View, John Champe and Potomac Falls cheerleaders.
The Patriots increased the degree of difficulty from their previous time out.
“I’m really excited about our performance today,” said Park View assistant coach Brittany Rose. “We fixed a lot of transitions, worked on our dismounts, changed some pyramids, added a little difficulty. For them to work on that in practice and then come out here and do a really great job, I’m really proud of them.”
John Champe was one of three schools to send both varsity and JV teams to the meet, coached respectively by Shelley Canonico and Kristin Sheetz.
It was the all-time debut for Champe’s JV.
“I’m incredibly proud of our JV team,” said Sheetz. “The majority of my team has never cheered before, never competed before, so for them to take the floor for the first time ever and perform that well was a big accomplishment.”
As the Knights’ junior varsity was performing on the mat, their varsity counterparts were loudly joining in on the chants, perfectly synchronized. When it was the varsity’s turn, the roles reversed.
Canonico arranged her team’s routine in a dance-chant-dance sequence with two musical segments. She said she wants to see improvement from her team’s outing at Stone Bridge.
“That was a rough performance for my girls. We can do a lot better,” admitted Canonico, Champe’s second-year head coach. “We did better in our perforance last Wednesday at South Lakes, and I hope we do better next Wednesday at the LCPS Invitational.”
The Virginia High School League’s competitive cheer championships will be held Nov. 7 at the Seigel Center on the downtown Richmond campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.
The 8th Annual Spirit Bowl at Stone Bridge
1. C.D. Hylton 234.5
2. Stone Bridge 220.5
3. Broad Run 194.5
4. South Lakes 183.5
5. Manassas Park 169.5
6. Park View 157
7. John Champe 151.5
8. Forest Park 146
9. George Marshall 137
10. Potomac Falls 132
1. Stone Bridge 162.5
2. Brentsville District 159
3. John Champe 89.5
4. South Lakes 76
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
for Viva Loudoun Media Communications