(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Standing high above a jammed packed field house, senior head cheerleader Arianne Macgilllivray shouts out to the crowd, 'B-U-L-L.' And just as the fans call back, 'D-O-G-S' she is flung high into the air with one fluid motion from the girls beneath her.
Descending towards the floor, Macgillivray then does a full twist, cradling safely in the waiting arms of her lift group as the crowd cheers on.
"It's an adrenaline rush when you're out on the floor cheering on," said senior cheerleader Morgan Hough. "Getting in front of the crowd and having everybody yelling back with us, it's a feeling you can't describe."
But while the moves of the SHS cheerleaders may seem second nature to most fans sitting in the bleachers, that's because they are. Because what most people don't get the chance to see is all the hard work and dedication that the Lady Bulldogs put into their stunts and routines.
"It takes a lot of time and ability to do the level of difficulty that the cheerleaders at Sikeston actually do," said Wanda Throop, one of the three cheerleading coaches at SHS, alongside Trisha Keefer and Sarah McGill. "They have to be very athletic and very committed because we spend a lot of time on our routines.
"Not only do we have to learn the sequence and material but we also have to perfect it as if we were doing it as one person."
That perfection has lead the Lady Bulldogs cheering squad to five state championships; 1994,1996, 2003, 2006 and 2007 in the 4A large school division while finishing no lower than third in sixteen out of the seventeen years of state competition.
But always keeping safety in mind, Throop said that their perfection starts with the basics, beginning with the simplest stunting and gymnastics first.
"The main safety precautions that we take is that we work up to the advanced levels, we don't start there," said Throop. "We progress slowly through each stunt or lifting sequence, making sure that the girls know everything about that stage and we make sure they can execute it properly.
"We don't move on to the next advanced stunt until we know that they have mastered the one we got."
But while some skeptics question cheerleading as a high risk sport, the ladies of SHS cheerleading disagree.
"We always take full precaution when we are trying new stunts," said senior flier Ashley Angle. "Whenever we try something new, we go group by group and make sure everybody else is spotting around us until we can do it on our own.
"It's really more fun than it is scary though and if you do it correctly it's not dangerous."
Senior Abbi Keefer added the fact that this year's squad having ten seniors helps out a lot.
"Since we have a lot of experience returning to this year's team, we already have a lot of girls with developed technique," said Keefer. "Which really helps out as far as leadership goes. If one of the girls is having trouble, there is always someone there to help out."
The Sikeston cheerleaders recently qualified for state during regional competition held in Perryville and will try to repeat as state champs for a third time in-a-row in November.