BY YANEEK SMITH | MIRROR SPORTS — Cheerleading competitions don’t often receive the attention and accolades that other sports do, but that doesn’t diminish their accomplishments.
One of the state’s best squads exists right here in Northwest Ohio at Anthony Wayne High School. This season, the Lady Generals won the (OASSA) state cheerleading championship at The Ohio State University. It is the 14th state championship in the program’s history, further enhancing its tradition.
AW’s team consisted of 26 cheerleaders: Ashley Hertzfeld, Rachael Redfern, Lily Gunther, Katie Mulholland, Olivia Wern, Grace Dalagiannis, Katie Borkowski, Allie Palmer, Annabelle Segur, Emily Dawson, Jordan Staltner, Lily Kadlubowski, Sidney Stamm, Alexis Pappas, Jade Pappas, Brooke Dove, Sam Trammell, Ali Fritz, Megan Schuster, Devin Karamol, Brady Ley, Alyssa Roth, Gracie Tenney, Brooke Glowacki, Mikayla Long and Maddie Taylor.
“This season, our competition continued to grow with Perrysburg moving to the D-I division with us,” said AW coach Tyler Bill, who works as an intervention specialist at the high school.
“Our division is extremely competitive with the D-I schools bringing some of the best stunting and tumbling to the competition.
“Our squad had an excellent showing down at state, competing one of the most difficult routines in AW history. We are extremely excited to bring yet another state championship back to our wonderful community.”
Bill talked about the effort put forth by the cheerleaders in a sport that lasts 12 months.
“We start in late March and our full season ends in early March,” he said. “Our athletes begin practicing in May to go into summer with what we need to work on. Over the summer, we have a few practices as well as a camp. At camp, we compete with the teams in attendance and it’s a good start to our season.
“About two weeks from the start of the school year, our athletes practice 3-4 times a week on top of cheering at games, workouts and attending tumbling clinics. Our athletes understand the commitment and dedication needed to be successful. We work extremely hard and keep our focus on the end goal.
“We compete throughout the fall and winter at competitions all across the state. These help us to get practice performing in front of a crowd and see what we need to focus on moving forward. These would be like your regular games throughout a season if compared to football, basketball, etc.
“We then compete at regionals in late January and early February to qualify for state. If we qualify, we compete at the state competition (which is) held in early March.”
The national competition, which took place at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, saw the Generals finish third while facing some of the best teams in the United States. That unit included 20 cheerleaders: Mulholland, Gunther, Wern, Redfern, Hertzfeld, Dawson, Kadlubowski, Dalagiannis, Segur, Borkowski, Ley, Fritz, Schuster, Tenney, Dove, Mikayla Long, Emily Long, Alyssa Wortketter, Peyton Euler and Nikki Hoyer.
“We competed at nationals with a game day squad as opposed to our traditional competition team. Although nationals has the traditional competition format, we chose to compete in the game day division.
“Within a game day routine, you (perform) a band chant, sideline, cheer and fight song. We coaches were confident in our team’s ability, knowing they could be competitive in this division,” Bill said.
“We had an excellent performance in the semifinals; however, it was not our best. We knew they were taking 11 into the finals out of over 20 teams in our division. We had to anxiously wait for the announcement. We were so excited when they called our name as one of the teams advancing to the finals.
“Our squad was ready and excited to take the mat in finals. We had an amazing routine filled with energy, which earned us a third-place finish. We are extremely proud of our placement, as it was our first time in that division. We are proud to bring our tradition of excellence to the national level and make our mark.”
It is the third championship under Bill’s watch, the others coming in 2017 and 2019.
“The cheerleading program at Anthony Wayne has had a tradition of excellence,” he said. “We aim to continue the legacy of those coaches and athletes from earlier seasons. Our program has a tradition of being successful, starting back in the early 2000s.
“The legacy of those earlier squads motivates our current squad to work hard to be successful. Our athletes work hard and are dedicated to this program because of the foundation that has been laid before us. Our athletes take great pride in being a part of the AW cheer legacy.”
Bill credits his assistants, Cindy Dalagiannis and Marissa Fink, for the their contributions to the program.
“Cindy Dalagiannis and Marissa Fink coach alongside me at the high school,” he said. “Each of us is extremely passionate about the program and dedicate so much time to ensuring that we are successful.
“We often leave practice and will talk into the late evening about what we can do to make our athletes and team better. All three of us have unique perspectives, but it is when you combine all three that you have a winning combination.”