Brooke, RCB, Tug Valley win state cheer titles
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state cheerleading tournament boiled down to two teams earning firsts on the first try and one team that seems to earn firsts on every try.
Tug Valley earned a state title in its first year in Class A, Robert C. Byrd earned a state title in its first year in Class AA, and Brooke earned its 10th Class AAA championship in 12 years and its 13th overall Saturday at the Charleston Civic Center.
The Bruins got past the rest of what turned out to be a solid AAA field, posting a score of 347.2 and clearing second-place Logan by less than four points. The Wildcats finished in second place last year as well.
Brooke was given the task of going first and, as it turned out, first impressions were the most important.
"This group of girls is probably the hardest-working group of girls," Brooke coach Melissa Michaux said. "They put it all on themselves. We very rarely had to tell them to fix anything or do anything. They wanted it bad enough and they practiced as hard as they could."
The Bruins bested six Class AAA squads that each posted scores in the 300s while only two scores of 300 or better were earned in Class AA and Class A.
Michaux, in her third year at the helm, said she had a pretty good idea of what was the clincher for her squad for the second straight year.
"I think our tumbling put us over the top," Michaux said. "We had full-squad tumbling on everything. Everything was in sync and everything was perfect."
Riverside finished third with a score of 334.75, missing out on second place by under nine points. Fellow Kanawha Valley school Winfield in seventh place and George Washington finished eighth in the school's first appearance in the state tournament.
Coach Karen Thomason said that a special group of kids helped lead Byrd to the championship.
"This squad is just amazing," Thomason said. "They work together and do what they need to do for each other. They make each other strong and I'm just really proud of them. They have good sportsmanship and they're just good kids."
The Eagles came to Charleston with just four seniors and six freshmen on the squad.
Thomason didn't hesitate to say a return trip to the Civic Center next year is already a goal and she said that her squad is used to battling through adversity already.
"I feel like they always have hurdles they need to overcome," Thomason said. "All of this has just come together and just really makes them stronger and they love to perform."
Mingo Central finished a distant third with a score of 280.45 while Tolsia and North Marion rounded out the top five.
Tug lost six girls off of last year's competition squad, but those who returned provided a huge lift for coach Tara Ellis this season.
"Leadership was a big key in how we got here and won today," Ellis said. "It was huge. Captains' leadership - that was the main key - keep pushing the young girls so they understood how important it was to everybody."
The Panthers' score of 322.1 was enough to fend off second-place Tyler Consolidated (306.7) and third-place Williamstown (295.45).
Ellis, who also steered Tug to the crown last year, may be building toward a Brooke-like dynasty of her own, something she is already looking toward.
"We have a lot of young girls and a lot of veteran girls so it's been a mix of talent and emotions along the way," Ellis said. "But it's amazing because every year we have the motto, 'We don't rebuild, we reload.' Now we start working toward next year."
Wheeling Central and South Harrison finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
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