The Shelbyville High School cheerleading squad has something extra to cheer about. They recently received their first-ever first place victory in competitive cheerleading.

The squad competed on January 21 in Kincaid in a competition sponsored by the (ICCA) Illinois Cheerleading Coaches Association. The squad competed in the small varsity division against nine other teams.

“This is the first time they have placed first in their three year history of competitive cheerleading so it was very exciting,” explained Shelly Bridges, who has coached the Shelbyville squad for five years. “I am so proud of this team for stepping up and being the best that they can be. They are truly a team in every sense of the word.”

You may associate cheerleading with what you see at sporting events. However, competitive cheerleading is totally different, Bridges explained.

“Competitive cheerleading is not the cheerleading people in the community see at the games from my squad,” Bridges said. “The sidelines and floor cheer cheerleading we perform at games is simply just that, for the games.”

Bridges explained that competitive cheerleading focuses on three minute non-stop routines, and the squad is judged on motion technique, strong jump technique, facials and enthusiasm, advanced stunting technique, formations and spacing, choreography and overall originality of the performance.

This year the squad’s competitive season is regulated by IHSA, which means that competitive cheerleading is now considered a sport. Just like every other sport, the squads are put into divisions based on enrollment, which puts SHS in the small varsity division this year.

“IHSA regulates a cheerteam to only five total competitions in a year and also regulates that the cheerteam competing must be a cheerteam for a winter sport such as wrestling or basketball. There are no non-ISHA teams allowed and no all-start teams allowed,” Bridges said.

The squad will compete in another ICCA competition on Feb. 12 at Mt. Vernon High School. The IHSA Sectional will be will be held at Bloomington Central High School.

“If we qualify on March 4, then IHSA state is the following week on Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11,” Bridges said.

The squad’s competitive season is a long one, beginning in June and continuing into March.

“That whole time we are constantly coming up with new ideas and builds to put in our routines,” Bridges said. “These girls practice every day that they do not have a basketball game for at least an hour and a half per day and sometimes we even have to practice on basketball game days.”

Bridges has coached the Shelbyville cheerteam for five years and has also coached at Arthur High School.

“I love the competitive sport about it,” Bridges said.

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