Butler captures 1st PIAA competitive spirit championship
Butler High School's cheerleading squad spent the weekend in Hershey, but it wasn't the chocolate that made this journey sweet.
Members of the school's spirit squad won the first ever PIAA competitive spirit championship on Saturday, topping the field in the small varsity division with a score of 80.03 points.
Butler finished ahead of fellow WPIAL teams Pine-Richland, the WPIAL champion which placed second (77.67), and Franklin Regional, which took third (73.40).
“We are obviously excited that we were able to win the first PIAA competitive spirit competition,” coach Nicole Nea said. “First, we were happy that we were able to go and qualify for this event, and now we have the opportunity to go to nationals.
“We went into the competition wanting to finish in the top five. We are a team that competes at Nationals every year. The win is just a confidence booster for us going into nationals.”
Scores are tabulated from the average of the three judges' scores, up to 100. Each school's performance must have a cheer portion and a music portion.
During the cheer portion, teams are judged on their presentation of material, motions and skills and the overall execution of the cheering. Music routines are judged on stunts, pyramids, tumbling, jumps, dance and the overall effect.
“We hit an almost perfect routine. We made a few minor mistakes,” Nea said. “When you see the difficulty of the routines, you just have to go out there and see who can hit their routines with the least amount of mistakes.”
For some in the cheering world, this year has been a little bit different than previous years, because this year marks the first year that the PIAA and WPIAL has recognized competitive spirit as a sanctioned sport.
“Our year this year has been similar to those in the past. The WPIAL having the qualifying and this event is just two more times to get on the mat and bring home some trophies,” Nea said. “This is the first year that I have worked more closely with our athletic director in regards to more competitive things.”
In mid-January, the Golden Tornado finished in third place at the WPIAL competition.
Pine-Richland was first, while Shaler finished as runner-up.
“We see each other a lot at the local competitions,” Nea said in regards to competing with Pine-Richland, Franklin Regional and Shaler, which didn't make the trip to Hershey. “We all have similar routines, and to win something like the state championship, it was very big for us.”
The spirit schedule normally picks up in January and February for local squads.
The Golden Tornado also took first in a competition at Slippery Rock University last month.
Butler's season will culminate with a trip to the National High School Cheerleading Championship Feb. 9-10 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Andrew John is a freelance writer.