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Pine-Richland cheerleaders win first-ever WPIAL cheer crown

Submitted - Submitted The Pine-Richland cheerleading squad is, front row, Maura Hagan, Alex Stewart, Kasey Elkin, Jenna Craig and Taylor Wilson. Row two is Taylor Stewart and Jackie Kamenicky. Back row is head coach Danielle Hitson, Amanda Esswein, Emma Jochem, Jillian McAliney, Sarah Craig, Caitlin Henley, Elizabeth McMurry, Rachel Semelbauer, Marykate Drury and coach Daniella Dorenzo.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Submitted</em></div>Submitted The Pine-Richland cheerleading squad is, front row, Maura Hagan, Alex Stewart, Kasey Elkin, Jenna Craig and Taylor Wilson. Row two is Taylor Stewart and Jackie Kamenicky.  Back row is head coach Danielle Hitson, Amanda Esswein, Emma Jochem, Jillian McAliney, Sarah Craig, Caitlin Henley, Elizabeth McMurry, Rachel Semelbauer, Marykate Drury and coach Daniella Dorenzo.
pine creek - Submitted The Pine-Richland cheerleading squad is, front row, Maura Hagan, Alex Stewart, Kasey Elkin, Jenna Craig and Taylor Wilson. Row two is Taylor Stewart and Jackie Kamenicky. Back row is head coach Danielle Hitson, Amanda Esswein, Emma Jochem, Jillian McAliney, Sarah Craig, Caitlin Henley, Elizabeth McMurry, Rachel Semelbauer, Marykate Drury and coach Daniella Dorenzo.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>pine creek</em></div>Submitted The Pine-Richland cheerleading squad is, front row, Maura Hagan, Alex Stewart, Kasey Elkin, Jenna Craig and Taylor Wilson. Row two is Taylor Stewart and Jackie Kamenicky.  Back row is head coach Danielle Hitson, Amanda Esswein, Emma Jochem, Jillian McAliney, Sarah Craig, Caitlin Henley, Elizabeth McMurry, Rachel Semelbauer, Marykate Drury and coach Daniella Dorenzo.

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It took a long time for cheerleading to earn respect as a sport from the WPIAL and PIAA, but when the organizations welcomed the cheerleaders into the group, the Pine-Richland team wasted no time showing what it could do.

The past two weekends, the Pine-Richland cheerleading squad used dazzling routines, similar to what they entertain fans with during games, to capture the inaugural WPIAL Cheerleading Championship and a silver medal in the PIAA competition.

“We were fighting very hard to get recognized as a sport,” Pine-Richland coach Danielle Hitson said.

Hitson said the competition is run similar to how football or basketball is divided up.

There are Class AAA, AA and A divisions within the WPIAL competition, which differs slightly from the PIAA competition, where teams are arranged into small, medium and large divisions.

Pine-Richland competed against teams from Shaler, Butler, North Allegheny, Franklin Regional and North Hills among others for the WPIAL championship. Each team performs, and the best score after everyone has performed wins.

“I have been coaching a long time, so that made this more amazing and exciting,” Hitson said. “We have competed nationally before, but getting to compete locally is all the better.”

Hitson said she owes a lot to the parents who contribute financially so choreographers and dance coaches can help the team.

“We all work together on strength and dance,” Hitson said. “We tweak the routines as we go and alter things based off our scores.”

Hitson said it usually takes a weekend to knock out the majority of a routine. The team keeps the foundation the same and adds or takes out tosses and spins according to the situation.

Hitson said the kids are proud, yet humble about the accomplishments but don't plan to rest on these accomplishments as they head to nationals.

Despite the success in competition, Hitson noted that the competitions are not a requirement, and the girls put school first.

“They all have high GPAs and know school is the most important thing,” Hitson said.

Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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