The Battle Ground High School cheer and dance team took sixth place during the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association state championships on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5.
The team racked up 58.5 points during the competition, according to the WIAA website.
“We took sixth out of seven teams, but our journey to get to the state (competition) was tough so we were very happy where we landed,” said coach Kelsey Funkhouser of the Battle Ground-based competition.
Multiple cheerleaders and dancers on the team suffered injuries during their season and some also were infected with COVID-19.
Due to the flooding on Interstate 5 in January, the competition also had to be rescheduled.
Funkhouser said the team competed in the 4A Game Day Medium category.
The state championships featured multiple categories for cheer and dance teams. Since Battle Ground is a 4A school, they competed with other schools of a similar size, and the “medium” category means the team had 13 to 16 kids, with 14 cheerleaders on the floor for BGHS.
According to Funkhouser, the teams were scored by two judges who average a score out of 100. The cheerleaders are judged by the difficulty and execution of their routine. The rubric features categories like cleanliness, sharpness and their overall impression, which includes how engaged the crowd was.
Funkhouser said she was happy with the team’s performance especially because the team is made up of “basically all rookies,” with just a few repeat competitors.
“I am so beyond impressed with them,” Funkhouser said. “I think that they did amazing and they worked so hard. They’re also a combined team, so they’re not only practicing for cheer, but the girls on the cheer team are also on the dance team. For the last three weeks, our seasons have overlapped, so they competed in both cheer and dance during that time.”
Practicing both cheer and dance is difficult, Funkhouser said. The team spent one hour practicing cheer and another hour practicing dance five days a week. As a result, the team “sharpened up their motions.” They learned various styles of dance like hip-hop, jazz, and pom-pom routines, which she said were incorporated into their cheerleading routine.
The state performance was the best routine Funkhouser has seen her team complete, she said, noting the confidence they had throughout.
Harlee Stephens, a junior on the team, was one of the students who competed at state for Battle Ground. Her mother Ingri is proud of what Stephens accomplished.
“She loves to dance and has always liked ballet, and she just always wanted to be a cheerleader,” said Ingri. “She’s everybody’s best friend. She’s a go-getter, a fighter and she’s dedicated.”
Ingri said Stephens got into cheer in the midst of the pandemic. Since Stephens had to participate in remote learning and wasn’t able to see her friends for a time, Ingri said the sport helped her daughter flourish once she returned to in-person schooling.
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