The Highland High School cheerleading team executed a strong and energetic routine en route to winning the medium team division at the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Triad Cheerleading Sectional on Saturday at Triad High School.
Highland received a final team score of 89.40 bested Waterloo’s runner-up score of 88.63. Also finishing in the top five and also qualifying for this weekend’s IHSA Competitive Cheerleading State Finals at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington were Columbia (86.87), Triad (85.07) and Civic Memorial (83.33).
Rounding out the medium team division at the Triad Sectional but not making the cut to the state finals were Mount Vernon (81.23), Effingham (80.50), Jacksonville (79.03), Mascoutah (78.23), Centralia (77.50), Rochester (73.83), Mattoon (73.43) and Jerseyville (72.57).
About a month after winning the program’s 11th ICCA state title and first since 2009 in Springfield, HHS will take to the IHSA state stage on Friday for the prelims to begin their quest for the program’s first ever IHSA state championship. Highland has posted a program-best third-place finish on two previous occasions, first in 2006 under legendary Hall of Fame coach Terry Aebischer, who also directed the program to its first 10 ICCA state titles and again in 2014 under current coach Angie Fears, who is also a former Highland cheerleader.
The top 10 squads in each division will qualify from Friday’s prelims to Saturday’s finals where they will have the shot at hoisting a coveted state championship trophy. The top 3 teams will receive a trophy for their respective podium finish.
“This team just keeps bringing it,” Fears said. “I was a little worried because after our win at ICCA, we went to the Triad Invitational and had a rough go. We worked and focused more on the mental game. At our next invitational at Huntley, I saw a complete 180 in the team’s mental focus at Huntley which taught us a few things about how we were going to run our game at the sectional. The kids have all the skills, but they are keying in on how to focus and block out all other aspects and how to “perform” and get the crowd’s attention. They are learning to bring the ‘extra attention’ to their routine and make the judges want to watch. The routine was almost flawless. A timing issue in a tumbling pass, and one of our tumblers had so much adrenaline, that he over-rotated in his layout. A layout is hard to over-rotate on and we will work on that. These kids keep amazing me as they keep getting stronger. I can only hope that this keeps driving them to do well at the state competition this Friday. We are going to continue to work the jumps and motions, to increase our scores. It seems that a tenth of a point here and there can make or break you. At this point, our skills are set. We just have to keep working the mental game and keep focused. When these kids are in and are performing, you can’t help but get excited and get off of your feet. They demand the attention.”
Highland’s cheerleading team, which is coached by Fears and Chelsey Kantner, features Brooke Arbogast, Carollyn Dinh, Calli Engelmann, Jenna Foster, Lexi Gibbons, Lacey Grawe, Ally Iberg, Hope Immingm, Audrey Kosydor, CJ Kutzgar, Abby McTeer, Carly Rakers, Leah Sutton, Alex Thies, Bailey Wills, Marissa Wheeler., Jessica Wilson and Dani Zobrist.