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Logan, Clay-Battelle, RCB claim cheer titles

Click here to view a video from the state cheerleading championships

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On what is generally considered the unluckiest day of the year, Logan, Robert C. Byrd and Clay-Battelle enjoyed their sweetest moments on Friday the 13th.

Logan ended Brooke's two-year run in Class AAA while Robert C. Byrd captured back-to-back titles in Class AA and Clay-Battelle honored a fallen teammate by winning it all in Class A at the state cheerleading competition Friday at the Civic Center.

It was a bittersweet ending for Clay-Battelle, which lost junior Sydney Rush to a car accident in late September. The Cee-Bees dedicated a full page to Rush in the official program for the state cheerleading competition. Rush was a member of Clay-Battelle's 2011 championship team and also helped the Cee-Bees claim state titles in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays at the state track meet this past spring.

"She was here with us the whole time,'' said Clay-Battelle second-year coach Barb Neely. "Her presence was here. We were calm and did it for her.''

"Throughout the year this group has bounced back amazingly since Sydney's death,'' added Clay-Battelle principal David Cottrell. "They won in a whole bigger picture than this, and that's winning in life.''

Clay-Battelle, which won three Class A cheer titles in a row from 2009-11 and claimed its 10th overall championship, must have had an angel on its shoulder Friday, edging out runner-up Man by 3.85 points.

"There were a couple little mess-ups, but not very many,'' Neely said of the Cee-Bees' performance. "We kept our stunts in the air and I think [Rush] was keeping them in the air.''

Tug Valley, the defending Class A state champion that also won the Class AA title in 2011, finished third Friday followed by Wheeling Central, Williamstown, Notre Dame, South Harrison and Wirt County. (See Page 2B for complete scores.)

Logan amassed 337.75 points to easily outdistance runner-up Spring Valley's 311.55 in Class AAA. Brooke, which had won the last two titles and 13 overall, including a stretch of nine in a row from 2000-08, finished third after a spill early in its routine.

It was quite a day for Logan coach Michelle Akers, who was honored at center court with the National Federation Coaches Association Active Coaches Award, which is presented annually by the National Federation of State High School Associations, right before the Class AAA results were revealed.  

"That's just more than I could ever dream of and then for my kids to come out and win the state championship, it's just been the best day,'' smiled Akers, whose squad finished runner-up to Brooke the past two years. "No bad luck at all.

"I have the hardest working cheerleaders in the state. They sacrifice three to four hours a day, six days a week. Saturdays we're usually [practicing] six hours. They just never stop. They just keep pushing themselves farther and farther. They're like a family and they really came together today.''

Riverside, the only Kanawha or Putnam County representative in the three classes, was fourth in AAA after an unlucky episode that saw one of its regulars replaced in the lineup after injuring an ankle right before taking center court. Woodrow Wilson took fifth in AAA, followed by Jefferson, Wheeling Park and Buckhannon-Upshur.

Robert C. Byrd beat out runner-up Bridgeport 350.5-340.75 for back-to-back titles in Class AA - the only two in school history. Scott took third, followed by East Fairmont, Tolsia, Fairmont Senior, Liberty Raleigh and Wyoming East.

"It's an amazing feeling,'' said RCB coach Karen Thomason, who saw her Indians place second in the region to Bridgeport. "We had a very young squad this year. I think a lot of people underestimated them.

"We had a little bit of difficulty with leadership just because of the young squad. We had one junior [Jennifer Tassos] who had the weight on her shoulders and did a great job. Even the younger kids were stepping up. They've all just worked so hard.''

Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.


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