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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Thayer cheerleaders best in state

Friday, October 14, 2011

Since she became Thayer High School's cheerleading coach three years ago, Valerie Pitts has watched her varsity squad soar in competitions -- from fifth place, to second and now first in state.

"It was amazing," Pitts said of the team's Oct. 1 performance in Columbia. "I couldn't have asked for anything more."

The team faced an unanticipated hurdle this year, when one week before the state competition, junior Jordan Rhoades was seriously injured in a car crash.

"The girls were pretty upset. They are close to her," Pitts said.

Besides the emotional toil, the squad was then tasked with rearranging their routine on very short notice.

The squad of 13 girls had been practicing together all summer. The pace picked up after the squad qualified with a second-place win at the regional competition in Willard in July.

"As soon as regionals were over, we started practicing two to three hours a couple times a week," Pitts said. "Then, it was every day."

Pitts said the amount of time the girls devoted to practicing is especially commendable as most of them are also involved in many other activities, from sports to jobs and serving in clubs.

"A lot of the time, they were practicing early, before school," Pitts said.

The weeks of intense training all came down to one three-minute routine that included tumbling skills, dance, music and cheering.

To prepare, the girls hired choreographer Sam Hernandez of Fayetteville, Ark. At state, they competed against 16 squads in Class 2A. In all, 130 squads competed.

"They were beyond words when they won," Pitts said. "It was something they hoped for, but when it happened, they were in shock."

Of Thayer's 13 varsity cheerleaders, five are seniors, who have participated all three years at state.

"This is as far as we go," Pitts said.

The competition is administered by the Missouri Cheerleading Coaches Association, as does not compete nationally.

"They did such a good job," Pitts said.

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