By Stephen Smoot
For the third year in a row, those who lead the cheers for Cougar sports teams have gone to Huntington to compete for a state double A title.
This year, their young squad earned a fourth place finish.
In the week leading up to the competition, as Coach Mandi Brown describes, “they were nervous, but excited.” She added that the team “can’t wait for it to come, but they’re nervous for it to come.” They felt a classic competitive combination of nervousness and excitement, their coach said.
Five of the squad, all freshmen, had competed before but not at this level. “It was a brand new experience,” their coach explained, “an experience like no other to think that you could be getting a state championship.”
For the junior class, however, this made their third trip to states. Brown said “they really helped the freshmen.”
Competition took place at the Cam Henderson Center on the campus of Marshall University. The stadium, which seats almost 10,000, dwarfs the venues in which the team is generally accustomed to perform. Brown said “it’s such a big place, all the seats, the jumbotron, it starts to get overwhelming.”
Every year, the competition rotates which class will open the day. Class double A started off this year at 10 AM. “We had to be at Cam Henderson Center at 8:30 to get there in time to be settled in,” Brown stated. The girls checked in, stretched and warmed up for five minutes, then commenced the seemingly long wait until they could take the floor.
With an inexperienced team, Lincoln faced a tough climb to have a shot to win. “Double A was stacked,” Brown shared, listing Fairmont Senior, East Fairmont, Logan, and Winfield among the most accomplished in attendance.
“We knew it would be tough,” she added.
To prepare for competition, the cheer squad practices six days a week to transform the intricate series of choreographed physical moves into “muscle memory.” Brown praised Lincoln High School, saying “our school works great with us and makes sure we get gym time,” which comes at a premium with both boys and girls basketball also practicing.
The team got two minutes and thirty seconds to perform a single routine from which judges would assign scores and placement.
“We made a couple of little mistakes,” Brown said, adding that “we didn’t win, but the future is bright. We knew it had to be a flawless routine.”
She also shared her pride in how her team handled the setback, saying “they were professional. There was no emotion shared as to how bummed they were. They surprised me how they held it together.”
Furthermore, the team immediately set to work thinking about how to get back and perform better in 2024. “They’re already asking me how they can improve for next season,” Brown said proudly.
With all juniors having three years of state competition under their belts and the team only losing one from the competitive squad, Lincoln should be a favorite to return – and hopefully dominate the competition – next year.