LaGrange cheerleaders ready for state
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It all comes down to one performance for the LaGrange High cheerleading team.
A successful season will come to a close on Tuesday when the Grangers participate in the Class AAAA state finals in Macon, and they’re hoping to make the most of their opportunity.
The Grangers earned their spot at state by finishing fourth in the state sectional in Vidalia last weekend, and they’ll be one of 16 teams competing in the state finals.
Among LaGrange’s cheerleaders are five seniors who have helped the team enjoy a successful 2020-2021 season.
Madison Arrington, Alison Baker, Lauren Hale, Myah Kuhn and Bella Sanchez will be on the mat on Tuesday in what will be the final competition of their high-school careers.
It’s a team, Arrington stressed, that has grown close as the season has gone along and is at its best right now.
“We’ve had our issues, but we’ve worked them out, and at the end is when we’re getting super-close, and figuring out how to work together,” Arrington said. “I think that’s going to pay off on Tuesday.”
The Grangers tried to keep things loose last week, with the seniors leading the way.
“We try to keep everybody hyped up,” Arrington said. “This week, we had themes for state. It’s throw-back Thursday, so this is my dad’s old jersey. We just make it fun.”
As for Tuesday, Arrington said “we’ll just go out there and do our best.”
Sanchez, echoing Arrington’s thoughts, said “I think it took us a while to get close, but now, everybody’s pulling together well.”
LaGrange had a strong performance at the state sectional in Vidalia, but Sanchez believes there is room for improvement.
“I was kind of surprised, because we didn’t do as well as I thought we could, but I was very happy with the score, because I know we can improve,” Sanchez said.
As for the pressure of competing at state with so much on the line, Sanchez will fall back on her years of experience.
“I’ve been doing it for a while, so I’m used to it, getting myself together for it,” Sanchez said.
It has been, for the seniors and everyone on the team, a long season. Competitive cheerleading is usually a fall sport, but because of COVID-19, the decision was made to push it back to the winter season.
LaGrange has also had to deal with an ever-changing lineup because of quarantine procedures.
Considering there was a question of if there would even be a season, though, no one is complaining.
“I’m so glad that we actually got to have (a season),” said Kuhn.
The Grangers are at full strength now, and Kuhn believes “we’re definitely at our best spot right now.”
While pleased with how the team performed in Vidalia, Kuhn said ““I think we can (be better), just adding a few things, and we can be tighter.”
lison Baker, a member of the team since she was a freshman, is proud of how far the program has come in recent years.
The Grangers didn’t even compete in the region competition when Kuhn was a freshman, and now they’re one of Class AAAA’s top teams.
“My freshman year, a lot of people quit the team, and my sophomore year coach (Mike) Pauley came in and tried to build us back up,” Baker said. “My junior year, and my senior year we’ve made it to state, so that’s really exciting.”
Senior Lauren Hale believes the team, despite the challenges it has faced, is prepared to deliver a strong routine at state.
“I think we’re ready,” Hale said. “We’ve been able to have practices pretty much like normal other than a few people getting quarantined.”
The Grangers finished 11th in the state last season, and Pauley is hoping they’ll improve on that this time around.
“To hit our goal, would be to land a score that puts us eight or nine, in the top 10, and have a chance to have our best score of the year,” Pauley said.
Madison Arrington, Alison Baker, Lauren Hale, Myah Kuhn, Bella Sanchez, Julie Arrington, Emma Jackson, Alyssa Teel, Ladaja Wilkes, Tessa Bailey, Timaya Brown, McKenzie Aldridge, Emily Arrington, Laila Bailey, Mallie Crawford, Lilly Rollings, Tinley Tucker, Avery Upchurch and Jayda Whitlow.