Shaler competitive cheerleaders win 3rd straight title
At Shaler, cheerleaders get the crowds riled up at every game, but this squad is more than entertainment between plays — it's a nine-time Pennsylvania state champion.
The team recently earned its third straight Division 7 title. The divisions are broken up by the number of cheerleaders on the team.
There are 20 members of the varsity cheerleading squad at Shaler, and 13 of them compete.
“We are working toward the same common goal,” said Diana Cook, one of the team captains. “We put it all together in practice, and we hit it.”
Cook was a sophomore when this team won the first of the three titles.
“I did not realize it then, but when I see all the effort that goes into it, I just can't explain the feeling I get,” Cook said. “I am honored to be a captain of this team, and I could not ask for a better team.”
This competition has been around for 25 years, and Shaler coach Phyllis Schatz fields a team just about every year.
“We do a two-and-a-half minute routine that involves tumbling, stunting and dancing,” Schatz said. “We work all year on it, (and we bring in a choreographer). We will compete in February at nationals in Orlando, Fla., and use the same routine.”
Madison Sauer is the other team captain, and she said the experience has been great — three years, three championships.
“Having followed the (older cheerleaders) gave me good footsteps to follow,” Sauer said. “We change our routine depending on the organization who is judging us. They all look for different things.”
Schatz and her team practice every day for an hour and a half, and there's seldom a day missed.
“If I try to cancel a practice, the girls get upset,” Schatz said. “They want to come and practice. They want to be the best and succeed.”
The Shaler team earned top-10 finishes the past two years at nationals, and Schatz has sent many of her cheerleaders on to the college level.
“Many of the girls told me this time is the best time of their lives,” Schatz said.
Schatz credits her assistant — former Shaler cheerleader Becky Trouppman — for the team's success and hopes to hand the program off to her some day.
“We just have a wonderful, dedicated group of scholar-athletes here,” Schatz said. “That is paramount. Plus, the school district really supports us.”
Sauer said she will miss the competitive cheering side of her experience.
“It is a completely different ballgame than cheering at a game,” Sauer said. “We are a small group, so we are close. This was my high school experience, and I am glad we got recognized for the hard work.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.