Anyone looking for the secret to success would be wise to visit a Chapin cheerleading practice. The Eagles’ competitive cheer squad obviously has the answer. Led by coach Vicki Williams, the team captured its second consecutive Class 3A championship on Nov. 21.
The Eagles earned 280 points, 14 points better than runner-up Greenville. Williams talked to The State about her team’s record sixth state title victory.
How did you develop your competitive routine and how confident were you that your squad could win state with it?
Our routine is always “a work in progress!” Each year at tryouts, I raise the bar a little, making the skill level required to make the competition squad harder. This year, each girl had to have a round-off tuck, triple toe back handspring as well as other running tumbling. The team had decided their goal for 2009 would be squad round offtucks — so we stuck to that requirement and it worked. I don’t think there was any other team at state that had that. We also had a great choreographer , Gianni Denegri, who helped choreograph the routine. He and I worked together to keep the difficulty level high, yet making it an enjoyable and fun routine to watch! As far as how confident I was that the team could win state again, I never doubted that we couldn’t. They were determined to break the high school cheerleading record for the most state titles.
What was your team’s strength this season? What did the Eagles do best?
The team’s strength this season was their work ethic. There were 24 young ladies who would come to practice no matter how they felt, nothing stopped them. We practice a lot, weekends included. We also competed at more competitions this year, which helped to build confidence. But as far as what they did best —they trusted each other. My main goal every year is to build a team who loves each other and respects each other. The old saying ‘Individuals do not win, teams do’ is true. We have a tradition, that when we take the mat it’s for all the other girls who have been on Chapin varsity before. It is a bond that is hard to explain and you can tell when they run out on the mat each girl is proud to represent Chapin High School and proud to be on Chapin varsity.
How do you keep things new and interesting each year?
Each year I make the routine harder and raise the skill level. Next year, my goal is to have squad standing tucks. We are already getting excited about next year. I just wish we could go to Nationals. We are definitely capable of competing at that level.
Who chooses the music for your routines, and what were some of your squad’s favorite songs for competition?
Randy Dickey, the owner of American Cheer Extreme, does our music each year. He usually has us do it at least five or six times before it is what I want. But he is used to that. We have worked together for the past 12 years. Music is extremely important in a routine. The tumbling music has to get the girls pumped and the music for stunts has to be perfectly time to match the stunt. We can only have one minute, 30 seconds of music — and ,believe me, we may do the music over and over again just to get one eight-count done.
Who have been leaders among your girls this season?
Taylor Bedenbaugh is the captain and Sydney Benthall is co-captain. Both these young ladies have done an outstanding job providing positive leadership for the team. The seniors also worked so hard to pull the team together. I am going to really miss them. I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of their life for the past several years. I only coach for one reason and that is for the relationships I have with the girls. That is priceless and something I treasure forever.
How does the competitive cheer squad’s success affect the appreciation from other athletics teams and the rest of the school community? Is your success raising the profile of the sport there?
The Chapin community has been fantastic in supporting these girls. At state this year, oh my gosh, I think the entire town was there. It was amazing. We walked out on the mat and it was nuts. That really pumps up the girls and makes them so proud. We have unbelievable parents. This year, our moms have constantly been there for the girls. I think it is so important to make sure the parents share in the lives of their daughters. They grow up so fast and you wish you could go back and do it allover again. Our athletic director, Scott Earley and Mike Satterfield, the principal of Chapin High School, also have been supportive and encouraging throughout the year and that means a lot to the team. The team is also supportive of the other competitive cheer teams across the state. It is so exciting to be friends with other teams and keep positive sportsmanship in the hearts of all the girls.
— Akilah Imani Nelson