The Ballard Talisman

Cheer finishes season at nationals

Cheer’s Black team places 13th in the nation

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Cheer finishes season at nationals

Black team at the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fl. (Courtesy of Ellie Ingraham)

Black team at the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fl. (Courtesy of Ellie Ingraham)

Black team at the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fl. (Courtesy of Ellie Ingraham)

Black team at the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fl. (Courtesy of Ellie Ingraham)

Kylie Williams, Staff Reporter

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The cheer team took the mat in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 10 and 11, at the National High School Cheerleading Championship to compete for a national title. The black team placed 13 out of 24 in their Medium Varsity Division I group.

On Jan. 27, the Black team won the state championship for the second year in a row and stamped their ticket to nationals. In Florida, there were teams that had been to nationals multiple times and were going for second, even third titles.

For junior captain Ellie Ingraham, this was her second season, and she was very impressed by all the talent she saw at nationals.

“Getting to see all these crazy teams like Live Oak, who got first in our division. They were doing crazy, crazy skills, and it’s really cool to be able to see what girls our age are able to do,” Ingraham said. “It was very surreal to be there and be around such dedicated and talented teams.”

Samantha Burnstead has coached the Beavers for five years now, and saw the Black team excel against the tough competition at nationals.

“We had some of our best practices of the entire year in arguably the most overwhelming and competitive environment there is for high school cheerleading,” Burnstead said in an e-mail interview.

On the way to nationals, some days were tougher than others when it came to stress and energy.

“Finals were the same weekend as state, so it was very stressful,” Ingraham said. “I think our coaches could tell we were all thinking of different things, and there was so much going on, and it affected a couple of our practices.”

The only two seniors, Mari Huff and Amirah Karam, were a big part of the team’s success and motivation throughout the season.

“At the end of some of the practices before we compete, we would go around the circle and say who we’re doing it for and who we look up to — almost every person said either Amirah or Mari,” Ingraham said. “We’re going to miss them so much.”

This year at nationals, there were 800 teams and 15,000 athletes competing. Many of the teams stayed at the same hotel and would practice in the common areas at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort.

“There were so many incredible teams crammed onto this little field,” Ingraham said. “You’d be bumping into people, but the energy was just amazing, and it was so cool to be able to practice at the same time as all those other teams and to be in that crazy atmosphere.”

The Red team finished 3rd in the state out of the non-tumbling teams, which is the largest division. Juniors Jesa Chiro , Freeman Marshall , Eva Brazil and  sophomore Mclaren Hadley were leaders for them, but rookies helped set a new standard.

“[Newcomer] Sophomore Lulu Powers came to Ballard with cheerleading experience and raised the bar for what an all-around athlete looked like for our Red team,” Burnstead said.

As the two-time reigning state champs, the Black team is looking forward to see how they can improve and grow for next season.

“I’m really excited to see how far we can push our limits next year, because this year, never, in the beginning did we think that we’d be getting 13th at nationals, or even going to finals,” Ingraham said. “It’s crazy to see how much all of our hard work paid off in the end, so I’m really looking forward to see how far we can push our limits next year.”

As a whole, cheer is looking forward to keeping their reputation up in years to come.

“We hope to travel back to Nationals and would love to three-peat as State Champs,” Burnstead said. “Sometimes the climb up the hill can be easier than staying on top, but we sure like the view, so we are going to do everything we can to stay there.”

The end to the team’s memorable season will be documented, along with the rest of the Division I competition, on ESPN2 on April 8 at 1 p.m.

“I just feel very fortunate to have taken the mat with such amazing people and athletes,” Ingraham said. “I’m really proud of everybody and all the hard work, time and effort, and I know it was a lot sometimes, but it was so worth it in the end.”

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Cheer finishes season at nationals