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Jackson cheerleading squad makes history with national runner-up finish

The Jackson cheerleading squad poses with its trophies from this past competition season, which includes the NCA High School National runner-up trophy, the NCA Virtual Regional Competition runner-up trophy, the Class 5 Large Squad Division state championship plaque and the regional competition title plaque. Pictured in the front row from left: Seniors Talyn Lape, Tiara Looman, Morgan Crombie, Hayden Parsons, Maria Naeger, Evee Kay Pursley, Macy Bommarito and Peyton York. Back row: Freshman Alli Fles, freshman Haidyn Wormington, freshman Bella Ivie, junior Gracie Seabaugh, junior Gabby Becerril, junior Lily Meyer, junior Erin Shields, junior Lucy Dameron, junior Lindsay King, sophomore Emersyn Bruce, sophomore Macy Marks and sophomore Landyn McClanahan. Photo by Jay Forness

When looking at the sidelines during a Jackson football or basketball game, one would most likely see the Indians athletic program with the most state championships in school history — and it’s not the Indians team wearing a jersey.

That would be the Jackson cheerleading squad that won its third state title in program history two months ago in December, leading up to a rather remarkable feat last month. The Indians last won state in 2018 and 2019 while competing in the Class 4 Small Squad Division, but they won it all in the Class 5 Large Squad Division this time around.

After winning state and placing second in the NCA Virtual Regional Competition, these Indians went on to Dallas last month and nearly brought home the NCA High School Nationals Championship. Jackson produced a two-day score of 97.175, ultimately bringing home the second-place national trophy and was also awarded with “Best Jumps” out of every team in its division.

“For me that meant a lot because I’ve been on this team for four years now,” senior Peyton York said. “It feels good to win after putting in so much hard work into it, and we always came up just a little bit short [at state], so it feels good to have finally reached that goal.”

Fellow senior Evee Kay Pursley added, “I think a lot of people don’t realize how much goes into it. To put ourselves out there to win and prove that we are successful at what we do and show what Jackson cheer is about makes you feel like everything you’ve done is worth it.”

The Indians took second to national powerhouse Lyndon B. Johnson out of Laredo, Texas, which has now won the past six national championships. The team scored a 99.06 to win yet again and also took first over the Indians in the NCA Virtual Regional Competition.

Nonetheless, these Indians have now put Jackson cheer on the national radar while only continuing to gain respect regionally as well as from their fellow classmates and athletes.

“As competition cheerleaders, we really do put the blood, sweat and tears into our routine and into what we do,” senior Morgan Crombie said. “It’s really rewarding to see at the end of the day all of that payoff at the end of the season. It’s also nice to know our community appreciates us and how we represent our school.”

Prior to nationals and a few days after state, Jackson had to compete in the NCA Virtual competition to receive feedback from the judges and know what it needed to change from the state routine. The girls had a four-hour practice the day after the state to change the routine and then did the recording of the routine the following day.

“I definitely think that people don’t understand or see what goes on behind the scenes,” Crombie said. “At the end of the day, they see us cheering on the sidelines and think, ‘Oh, that’s so cool,’ when we throw some stunts and stuff. Or if they watch our routine they think, ‘Oh, that’s awesome!’ We have long, hard practices. … With all the time that we’ve spent together — basically what’s felt like every day together — we all began to grow a bond. I think that’s something we took away from all of the competition season.”

These Indians had two goals for nationals and that was to hit the routine in every aspect and place in the top five, which they accomplished. Jackson’s competition team is composed of 20 cheerleaders with no alternates as they battled with a few injuries throughout the season.

“Competing at nationals was nerve-racking, but I think what ultimately led to our success was we all kept a cool head and really relied on the trust and training we’ve received through these years and past couple of months,” York said. “We’ve worked so hard that we trust our training enough to be able to confidently put out a routine.”

Pursley added, “Nationals was definitely different than state but obviously the same aspects because there’s little steps we take throughout the way. The practices and everything leads up to this moment, so realizing this and walking onto a stage where everyone is looking at you and everything’s so dark — you just have no other way to show this is what we’ve done.

“You really put it out all on the mat in that moment and give everything in that moment. It’s nothing like any other sport because everything goes into that one second.”

The Indians had a total of six all-state selections this season as senior Peyton York and junior Lindsay King led the way by being named as the Overall Top Flyer and Overall Top Base in Class 5, respectively, along with their all-state status. Also earning all-state for Jackson was senior Maria Naeger (base), junior Lily Meyer (flyer), sophomore Emersyn Bruce (base) and lastly freshman Haidyn Wormington (back spot).

The Indians other 14 cheerleaders on the competition squad include Crombie, Pursley, seniors Macy Bommarito, Talyn Lape, Tiara Looman, Hayden Parsons, juniors Gabby Becerril, Lucy Dameron, Gracie Seabaugh, Erin Shields, sophomores Macy Marks, Landyn McClanahan and freshmen Alli Fles and Bella Ivie.

Jackson is coached by Jana Scott, who has been with the program since 2011 and took over as the head coach in 2014. Her assistants include Lexie Grojean, Tosha Borgfield and Melanie Wissore.

Along with placing second at nationals, winning a third state championship means that Jackson cheerleading has more state titles than any other athletic program for the Indians. Jackson’s other state champions include boys basketball (1934), girls cross country (2016), boys golf (2019), football (2020), boys soccer (2020) and wrestling (1977).

“Being a Jackson cheerleader is all I’ve ever wanted my entire life,” York said. “I did all-star cheer way back when, and I worked up to this level. Seeing your hard work, time and money payoff — our parents have huge time commitments to this.

“That means a lot to me, and all of the girls mean a lot to me because we’ve made such special bonds throughout the year that I truly think we’ll have forever. I don’t think I can say that about a lot of other people in high school. It means a lot to me to see this program flourish and be as successful as it can be.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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