- Alma School District
National Champs! (Again)- 04/27/2021
By Kevin Taylor
It’s becoming harder and harder for Christy Law to talk about the moment she knew her Alma High School cheer squad had taken home another national championship.
Each time, there are tears.
“As each school was announced, we became more and more anxious,” the Alma cheer coach said. “The moment right before the runner-up was announced, you could hear a pin drop. The room full of girls had gotten completely silent.”
Not for long.
“As soon as the runner-up was announced, we all went crazy,” Law said. “Jumping, squealing, crying … it was the best feeling ever.”
Senior Ansley Kirkendoll concurred.
"I can't really explain how I felt," Kirkendoll said. "We were watching the final scores. It was all the way up to fourth place and our name wasn't on it, so we were like, 'Oh my gosh, we're top three!'
"Third place wasn't us, and we were like, 'Oh my gosh, we're top two!' When they announced second place, we knew we had won."
Alma’s championship run saw the school post a high score of 94.7 in the Game Day competition. Game Day is split into divisions based on the size of the squad (small, medium, large and super large).
Law’s squad beat out 45 other schools in each division.
"We were a couple of points above second place because we came in first in prelims," Kirkendoll said. "They take half of our score in prelims and half of our school in the finals, and that gives us our composite score.
"We knew that we would probably be in the top three."
Alma’s second national championship was a sweet one, Law confessed, if for no other reason than what the school had to overcome.
“This year we missed out on three months of stunting, which is where we really build our foundation and learn technique,” Law said. “However, when we were finally cleared to stunt, the girls worked harder than ever to ensure that they wouldn’t be behind.
“They kept positive attitudes and gave it their all.”
"It's been a really tough year this year, just because of COVID. We've had a lot of stuff taken away from us ... we didn't get homecoming and we almost didn't get a state competition," Kirkendoll said. "During the summer we were really set back."
Senior Charis Hutchinson remembers watching the class of 2018 win it all.
“It was a really big deal to win my senior year, because when I was on the freshman team, they won nationals,” she said. “We’ve been working all three years in senior high to win and get back on top, and it finally happened.”
There were two other factors that might have affected other teams, such as competing virtually and having to wait nearly two months to compete in nationals.
“Virtual was very difficult,” Law said. “We all thought it would be easier because we had the ability to film our routine until it was perfect.
“But that turned out to make it more difficult. We would stop filming after every little mistake and restart. I would say we filmed a total of about 15 times before we finally got a perfect routine.”
“I think competing virtual was harder than when we competed in Orlando last year,” Hutchinson said. “Just because you can always refilm to make sure it’s absolutely perfect, whereas, in person, if you had a flaw, you just have to go with it and hope for the best, so that adds a lot of pressure.”
Because of COVID, nationals were moved back two months, Law said.
“Nationals are usually in February but were moved for COVID,” she said. “This extended our season by two months, which means that these girls have worked on the same routine for a total of nine months. I can’t tell you how much tenacity and grit it takes to keep drilling and working the same routine over and over. We couldn't have done it without the leadership from our seniors.”
“I’m really proud of my team for going through the pandemic,” Hutchinson said. “This year has been really challenging. Even though it can be discouraging at times, we stayed together and talked and did our best.”
Alma’s 2021 senior class finished second twice at the state cheer meet.
“Our seniors have been runner-up at state twice, and knowing the feeling of coming so close, they wanted it so bad,” Law said. “It has been amazing to see the bond grow between the teams as they all strived toward a championship.”
"This team has been my favorite so far," Kirkendoll said. "I'm really glad we were able to accomplish nationals with this team. Plus, it was really hard to do it virtually, so I feel like it's a really big deal."
Alma’s 2021 National Champion cheer squad.