The SJA Cheerleaders won the Magnolia Championship, held December 6 in the Jackson Convention Complex in Jackson, Mississippi. SJA competed in the Super Varsity division, scoring higher than all 27 teams across every division.
With their impressive win, the cheerleaders earned a bid to the National High School Cheerleading Championship, set for February 5-7 in Orlando.
First-year coach Mollye McManus expressed pride in the team’s performance in its first competition of the season. “I’m so proud of these girls, and I love being their coach,” she said. “They’ve worked so hard and have had to overcome so much due to COVID. Their hard work really showed in Jackson.”
McManus is a 2015 graduate of the Academy and a four-year member of the SJA Cheerleaders. She was a competitive cheerleader for 10 years before joining the UCA staff. She returns to her alma mater after coaching Live Oak Junior High last year.
Lauren Morris Sommer, SJA cheer moderator, said the squad’s routine has a high level of difficulty. “To hit it this weekend is incredibly impressive for this early in the season,” she said. “To have outscored all teams that competed across all divisions is incredible and a huge confidence booster for the team. I can’t wait to see what the girls will be able to do come February for Nationals. They are truly a very talented team, and it was so fun to watch them shine this weekend.”
Co-captain Josie Moore, a senior, said the team performed exceptionally well, even with a week off because of the Thanksgiving break. “We knew the week leading up to the competition was going to be a push, and it certainly was,” she said. “The feeling of hitting our routine and knowing all our hard work paid off is unmatched. I could not be more proud of the team and the routine we put out on the floor. Hitting at the competition was a perfect start to our season, and we are all so eager to get back into the gym and keep working to perfect our routine. I can’t wait to continue working hard this season and take on Nationals in February.”
Junior Grace Rowley said the squad is unlike any she’s been on. She said the uncertainty of entering the season in the midst of a pandemic has created a special bond. “We are not just teammates, we are sisters,” she said. “Going through this year not knowing what to expect brought us closer and helped us form a bond like no other. The drive to do well is there and was present on Sunday. Everyone gave 110 percent and did an amazing job. After a long week of practice, I’m so proud of all my teammates for the skills they displayed. What I enjoyed most about this competition was finally being able to reveal our routine and show everyone our hard work. This year is different for everyone, so finally being able to step out on the mat again was so much fun. Receiving our bid for Nationals in Disney makes us ready to work hard. We’re ready to use these next couple of months to prepare and perfect our routine.”
Junior Emma Rose Bordelon said the squad brought great energy to the competition. “We were all screaming for each other, and it was so much fun,” she said. “We love to encourage each other and do what we love. We were all excited to be back on the mat competing again. We are very excited to have the privilege to compete at Nationals. I feel confident that this team has what it takes to bring home a national title.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Lauren Morris
Video courtesy of Shelly Moore