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Hempfield spirit team relishes WPIAL experience

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
From left to right, Hempfield Area High School cheerleaders Kirsten Payne, 17, Lauren Walter, 18, Shannon Boring, 18, Allyssa Wilson, 17, and Sierra Morningstar, 17, all of Greensburg, put on makeup and watch cheerleading routines at the first WPIAL Competitive Cheer Championship held at North Hills High School in West View on Saturday, January 12, 2013. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review

It's a year of firsts for competitive cheerleading at Hempfield.

Not only is it the first season in several years that Hempfield has produced a team, but that also coincides with the first season the PIAA and WPIAL has sanctioned cheerleading as a competitive sport.

Despite the Spartans program still being in its infancy, it was thrust into competition in just its second event of the season Saturday at the inaugural WPIAL Competitive Spirit Championship at North Hills.

“I think they did phenomenal,” Hempfield assistant coach Alli Iksic said. “For most of our girls out there, it was their first time competing, so I'm really proud of them for how well they did.”

Despite falling short of advancing to the PIAA championship next month, Hempfield coach Shannon Klosky thought her team performed admirably.

“We hit on all of our difficult stunts,” she said. “The one they missed was a really basic stunt, so I think you can attribute that to nerves and just it being the first time out here.

“They did awesome, and for our first year, we can't ask for anything else.”

There has been a lot of interest in cheerleading among girls in the school district, with four total teams this season.

Hempfield has a freshman, junior varsity and varsity team made up of roughly 45 members.

Out of those 45, the top 15 comprise the elite team that travels to competitions and represented the school at the WPIAL championships and will compete at a tournament in the Pittsburgh area next month if the team elects to participate.

Interest has spread down to the middle school level that fields teams as well.

At the WPIAL championships, teams were graded on two components of their performance; the cheer portion and a music segment. Teams were scored out of a possible 100 points on categories such as partner stunts, pyramids, tumbling, presentation of material and execution among others.

While Hempfield didn't score as high as strong teams such as Class AAA champion Pine-Richland, the competition was a step in the right direction, according to the coaching staff.

“I think they did great,” assistant coach Ashley Contrisano said. “For the first year back as a competitive school, I thought they did a fantastic job.”

While still just in its first year as a WPIAL sport, Klosky said she believes that competitive cheerleading will begin to flourish not only at Hempfield, but in Western Pennsylvania.

“I think this year people weren't sure what to do,” she said. “They didn't jump into it as quick, but I think next year this event will explode in popularity.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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