Jackson County is now home to two reigning state champion cheer teams.
North Jackson won the Class 4A traditional state championship while Section captured the 2A traditional state title during the 2021 AHSAA Cheer Championships Monday at the Birmingham Crossplex’s Bill Harris Arena.
It was the eighth all-time state cheer championship for the North Jackson and the first for Section.
“I think it’s really cool that both (teams) won,” said North Jackson head cheer coach Meagan Willis, who did competitive cheer with Section head coach Taylor McCarver Davis when both were cheerleaders. “Our teams have practiced together and have really became close and they cheer for each other during competitions. Taylor and I are friends and we bounce ideas of each other a lot. I was proud of our team and was proud and excited for (Section) to win their first (state championship).”
In fact, it was Willis who let Section’s coaches know the Lions had won.
Due to COVID-19 precautions, the AHSAA announced the championship results via an online video rather than have a traditional awards ceremony.
“We were watching it on one of our phones and right before it was going to say who won the phone stopped (playing the video),” McCarver Davis said. “We’re all wondering if we won and we got a text (from Willis) that said we did. Everyone went wild.”
Like Section, Willis said the video froze in the middle of announcing the 4A state results earlier in the day.
“We were all kind of huddled around watching and it froze right before they announced it — we didn’t have good (cell) service — but when it had announced St. Michael as second, I felt pretty good that we had (won). When it (started) back and said we’d won, we went crazy.”
North Jackson’s cheerleading squad consists of Abby Allison, Caymahne Allison, Ashlyn Blizard, Madison Carter, Lindsay Chisenall, Brianna Garner, Lexi Garner, Lexi Gary, Holli Guess, Kolbi Hill, ZaKiyah Hutchins, Corey Jones, Hannah Mayes, Neely O’Brien, Layni Smith, Reese Smith, Tori Whisenant and coaches Willis and Brittany Bozarth.
It was a redemption moment for North Jackson, which finished third last season and had worked since April with five-day a week practices to get ready for state.
“Our theme this year was to go ‘take state,’” Willis said. “It’s funny after our routine, I didn’t think we’d won it because we had a few mistakes. But went I went back and watched the video and watched the other teams’ videos, I felt like we had a really good chance to because our routine was harder, sharper and cleaner than the others.”
North Jackson, which has won two of the last three 4A state titles finished with an event score of 81 while St. Michael was second with a 74.1. Madison County finished third (70.5 points) while Oneonta was fourth (69), Cleburne County fifth (68.2) and Booker T. Washington sixth (48.9).
Meanwhile, Section recorded the program’s all-time best event score of 80.1 points, edging Sand Rock (78.55) and Ider (69.3) for the Class 2A state title after finishing as the 2A runner-up a year ago.
In the state competition, teams perform a 2:30-minute routine that includes a 1:30 of stunt sequence, pyramid, jumps and standing and running tumbling and one minute of cheering.
“I felt like it was our best routine we’d ever put on the floor,” McCarver Davis said. “I’m just so proud of them. These girls worked so hard. A lot of them play basketball, so we practice around that. We practiced a lot in the mornings before school and before basketball practices and games. Our girls remembered how they felt walking off that mat last year after finishing second and they didn’t want to feel that again.”
Section’s cheerleading squad consists of Makenna Arndt, Jessica Bagley, Chloe Britt, Hadley Crawford, Kortni Davis, Braley Gant, Addison Hancock, Karlie Hancock, Lexi Haynes, Marli Haynes, Brooklyn Holcomb, Jade Luse, Jenna Luse, Maggie Mayo, Cindel Myers, Molly Myers, Kenleigh Owens, Claire Pope, Precious Parks, Ashlyn Reed, Morgan Sanders, Ali Sullins and Teagan Whitmire and coaches McCarver Davis and Kellie Hancock.
McCarver Davis won a state championship in basketball as a player at Section in 2012, but she said winning a state title as a coach was sweeter.
“I was just really excited for my girls,” she said. “This was the ultimate goal when we started (competition cheer) here at Section three years ago.”
And like Willis, McCarver Davis was happy to see Jackson County schools claim two state titles.
“We were so excited that North Jackson won too,” McCarver Davis said. “Coach Meagan and I…are friends and our girls love each other. We are so excited that both our teams were able to bring home two wins to represent our county.”