Loud, energetic music, hopeful coaches and girls with tightly curled ponytails filled the Hearnes Center on Saturday.
After qualifying at regional competitions, squads from 155 high schools across the state attended the Missouri State Cheerleading Championships this weekend. The Missouri Cheerleading Coaches Association sponsored the event.
Divided into three sessions on Friday and Saturday, the contest presented awards in categories based on school size and whether the squads were all-female or co-ed.
The Coaches Association also awarded individual senior cheerleaders with scholarships to use at the colleges of their choice.
Amber Malizia and Emily Logsdon, seniors at Columbia’s Hickman High School, said they have been preparing for the competition for months.
“We practice at games, at half-times,” Logsdon, 18, said.
“We also did mental run-throughs,” added Malizia, 17.
They said participating in a regional contest in Moberly, at which they won first place in their division, was another experience that helped them get ready for the state championship.
Fort Osage High School sophomore Jessica Cook said her squad also started practicing months ago and learned the routine it used for this weekend’s competition during the summer.
“We went over the things we needed improvement on and worked on those,” said Fort Osage senior Emily Sutherland.
Cook, 16, and Sutherland, 17, agreed that their favorite aspect of attending the various competitions is seeing and hearing the enthusiasm from the audience.
“Even if I’m nervous beforehand, right when you get out there, there’s nothing better,” Sutherland said. “It’s just so exciting, hearing the crowd. Everyone says it, but it really is an adrenaline rush.”