PENDLETON — The Pendleton Heights High School varsity cheerleading team is no stranger to the National High School Cheer Championship.
Going into this year’s competition, the PHHS cheerleaders have four consecutive top-five finishes at the prestigious event. The cheerleading team will try to keep its streak alive by competing in the 2014 National High School Cheer Championship this weekend at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Pendleton Heights takes to the mat at 11:51 a.m. Saturday in the Small Varsity Division 1 preliminaries. If the group scores well in round one, the team will advance to the semifinals and then on to the championship finals Sunday. The cheerleading championship will be telecast live on ESPN. Pendleton Heights High School cheer coach Brenda Jamerson says that no matter where her team finishes, she is proud of them just the same.
“As a cheer coach we set our expectations for our athletes from the first day of practice and set our goals,” Jamerson said. “We began our season by attending the top competitive camp in the country so they could receive the best instruction possible. We pushed through the summer and fall, increasing our skill set at each competition. Our girls are required to perform their skills while cheering at all games as well. This particular group of girls is extremely close and extremely focused. They support each other in the gym, on the field, on the mat, and outside of cheer.”
During the 2013 cheerleading competition season, Pendleton Heights took home first-place honors at the Indiana State Fair, Madison County 4-H Fair, Purdue Get on Track, Indiana State Cheer Championship and Indiana State Stunt Group Championship. The cheer team placed second at the Universal Cheerleader Association Hoosier Regional competition in November, to advance to the National High School Cheer Championship. In addition, Pendleton Heights senior Malarie Slagle was selected to the 12-member Indiana All-State Cheer team. Slagle has been involved with cheerleading for the past four years and will attend Anderson University next fall to study chemistry.
“I am very excited about this trip to Florida,” Slagle said. “We will be doing the most difficult routine Pendleton Heights has ever done. It’s an amazing opportunity that few get to experience. We’re appreciative that we have the opportunity to go and that we have many supporters that help make it possible.”
“My favorite thing about cheerleading is competing, especially with this group of girls,” Slagle added. “We only have two and a half minutes to show the judges and the crowd what we are able to do but it is always so much fun.”
Joining Slagle on the Pendleton Heights High School cheer team are Melanie Cox, Sarah Crull, Ashton Garrett, Baylee Greene, Chantal Kimmerling, Lexie Kissinger, Brianna Martin, Bailey Maxwell, Bella Salsberry, Taylor Sparks, Emma James, Bailey Castillion, Hannah Ferguson, Jessica Hudson, and Paighe Weaver. Trista Bellotti, Marah Kasdorf, and Mark Hughes serve as coaching assistants to Brenda Jamerson.
Though sheer talent has led the way to a fifth trip to the National High School Cheer Championship, Jamerson acknowledged that it would not be possible without the selfless efforts of the Pendleton community and volunteers.
“Parents’ support is everything,” Jamerson said. “This is truly a year-round sport with no off seasons. We know this affects the entire family.Our parents are also instrumental in the success of our fundraising activities such as cheer clinics, competitions, raffle sales, and various other events.
“Ford Auto World of Anderson has been a huge supporter of the PHHS cheer program, giving us the opportunity to raise funds while introducing the community to the latest Ford models. Our principal, athletic director, and school board continues to support our efforts to represent our community at Pendleton Heights events, as well as state and national events. In addition to cheering at games and competitions, these girls are also active in the community. This year, the PHHS cheerleaders sponsored a Challenger team for the Pendleton Youth baseball program, raised funds for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and sponsored a cheer competition that raised over $1,400 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Indianapolis. I take great pride in the tradition we have built at Pendleton Heights.”