"I am very proud," Sikeston High School Cheerleading Coach Wanda Throop said, "and feel that these girls have made a name for themselves."
Throop, who has been the high school cheerleading coach for 24 years, said that the state cheerleading competition originated 11 years ago and was developed by the Missouri Cheerleading Coaches Association and the Missouri State High School Activities Association.
Since then, the Sikeston varsity cheerleaders have received 8 state placings, including two first place titles in 1994 and 1996.
"The girls are extremely talented and extremely focused. They have a desire to do well," Throop said, "They give up a lot of their time to practice."
In addition to cheering at all of the games, the cheerleaders put in an extra three to five hours Mondays through Fridays to prepare for the state competition, Squad Captain Libby Tongate said.
Regional cheerleading competition takes place in August so the cheerleaders have to begin preparing way before that, Throop said. At regionals, the top five squads of the region are chosen to compete at the state level, she said.
Unfortunately, Throop said, only 18 cheerleaders are allowed to compete from each squad. Sikeston has 24 cheerleaders on their squad so some of the girls did not get to compete, she said.
Throop credits the girls, their parents and the community for the cheerleaders' success, she said. Right before the girls left for state, she said, the community's encouragement was just amazing.
"Doctors' offices and businesses sent gifts to the girls. For example, one dentist's office," Throop said, "sent the girls tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes that said, 'Smile!,' on them."
The night before the cheerleaders left for state competition, Throop said, they performed their routine for the public, and approximately 500 people came to see the routine.
Throop also said that the parents are very supportive. They allow their daughters to participate, she said. One reason the girls are so great, she said, is that their parents stand behind them and encourage them.
Students come to the games and support the cheerleaders as well, she said, and they are very encouraging, too.
Cheerleading coaches, Tricia Keefer and Jennifer Hodgkiss, have also contributed to the cheerleaders' success, as well as choreographers Lucy Mitchell and Cory Jones, Throop said. Throop also said that the squad wouldn't be able to make it without trainer Kent Schott because he helps with any injuries that the squad may have. Fortunately, she said, injuries don't occur often.
She believes cheering benefits the girls in other ways, too, Throop said. "I believe that by being involved in cheerleading, it helps the girls to develop the confidence to get up in front of people," she said.
Something important that deserves recognition, Throop said, is that the combined GPA for the entire squad is between 3.7 and 3.8.
The cheerleading competition was held in Columbia, Mo., at the University of Missouri-Columbia's Hearnes Center on Nov. 17, 2001.
Four cheerleaders made All-American. They were Junior Kendill McCollom, Senior Alison Moll, Sophomore Camille Tongate and Senior Libby Tongate.
"They've all done a really good job this year," Tongate said. "They did the best that they could, and that's all that matters."