B y Derek Liebig
The Poultney High School Cheerleading squad is a state champion.
The Blue Devils won the Vermont, Division II championships held last Saturday at Vergennes Union High School.
The team scored 139 points, beating out Mount St. Joseph (120) and Mill River (103), which finished second and third, respectively.
“They were shocked although I think they kind of knew it was coming,” Head Coach Joey Williams said. “We had placed first at two other competitions and they worked very hard the week before.”
Unlike other sports, which divide teams based on enrollment, cheerleading is divided based on the size of each team. So while Poultney doesn’t directly compete against schools like Fair Haven in sports such as football or basketball, it does in cheerleaders.
“It’s determined by squad size and we ended up in D-II, but we were competing against D-I, D-II, and D-III schools,” Williams said. “It’s very hard to compete as a D-III school when you’re facing D-I and D-II schools that can make cuts.”
Judges evaluated each of the teams based on five criteria: tumbling, stunting, pyramid, motion and dance.
Williams said Poultney distinguished itself with its tumbling and the crispness of its routine.
“Our tumbling has gotten much better. We have a new tumbling coach and have seven kids throwing back handstands,” she said. “Our motion and technique was very sharp.”
Williams said the team has worked on its routine all season and have tried to improve each week.
“We look at the scores and try and tinker with the routine; try to make it better.”
The state title continues the legacy of outstanding Poultney cheerleading squads. Although it’s the squad’s first title in several years, Williams said school officials believe it to be the Blue Devils’ 17th state title in 32 years of competing.
“It’s been many years,” Williams said, “its (17 titles in 32 years) pretty good.”
The team, however, didn’t have long to savior the accomplishment. It was back in action cheering for the Blue Devils’ basketball team on Wednesday and will compete in the Green Mountain Invitational at Mill River Union High School next Saturday. On March 22 the team will compete in the co-ed division of the New England Championships, an invite-only competition for the top squads in New England.
“You have to get invited,” Williams said. “We’re going!”