By Jennifer Beekman
There is an old adage, “Good things happen when you least expect them.” After a tumultuous winter season ripe with injuries, illness and a variety of other obstacles, the Urbana High School cheerleading team was still making minor adjustments to its Frederick County Championship routine just before taking the floor on Feb. 14. But with tempered expectations—the Hawks’ ultimate goal was to go out and have some fun—Urbana put on a stellar performance to edge six-time defending champion Linganore by 2.1 points for its first county title in at least seven years. The Lancers were coming off Frederick County’s first state title, which they won during the fall season.
“This win was great for our program. Linganore has had such a strong team, such a great group of athletes, so it was kind of a surprise—a good surprise—for our athletes,” third-year Urbana coach Kristen Keefer said. “We have worked hard to overcome a lot of obstacles this year, so we didn’t expect to win. I told the girls to just go out and have fun with their teammates; and winning was just icing on the cake.”
Reworking a routine—especially multiple times—can be quite a cumbersome undertaking but with a young team comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores, Keefer said everyone was highly motivated and eager to do well. The Hawks also benefitted from the leadership of the only two seniors on the team, co-captains Cheyenne Dyson and Jenna Pruitt.
“I think what separated us at counties was that they went out with a lot of energy and they hit the routine,” Keefer said. “If you go out and you hit your routine and everything is solid, you can only hope to win. But if you don’t hit your routine, you can’t expect to win.”
Cheerleading is a rather unique sport, Keefer said, in that there is no real equipment, other than your teammates. Therefore, trust in teammates—that they will be in the right spot at the right time to execute, or if necessary, step in as backup—becomes vital to a team’s success. And the Hawks’ biggest strengths this season were their cohesion and communication with each other—invaluable intangibles that cannot be taught.
“We would not have been able to make changes or do what we did if they didn’t trust each other,” Keefer said. “If one person doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, the whole thing can fall apart.”
Though counties marked the end of the winter cheerleading season, the Hawks’ sights are already on preparing themselves for a run at the state championship next fall. Keefer said she sends out conditioning videos for the students to follow and will oversee summer workouts—such as trail runs—to ensure the team stays in shape. Working on core strength is also important, she added.
“When the season finishes up I continue to communicate and send out conditioning videos and they respond with their own video,” Keefer said. “We work a lot on endurance and core strength. The skills for cheerleading—like tumbling—are so technique based, we want to make sure their bodies are conditioned so it’s easier to teach and improve skills.”