Cheerleading squad takes on districts

Although they did not qualify for states, co-captain Holly Hartman said the squad's performance reflected strong improvements

The cheerleaders perform a pyramid stunt at districts.

Dana Hartman

The cheerleaders perform a pyramid stunt at districts.

The PAHS cheerleading squad competed Saturday in the District 9 Competitive Spirit Championships at DuBois Area High School.

14 squads divided among three divisions took part in the competition. In District 9’s Small Division, Punxsy faced off against Bradford, Cranberry, Johnsonburg, Moniteau and St. Marys. Moniteau won the Small Division, Ridgway captured the Medium Division and Elk County Catholic secured the Large Division. These three squads will join St. Marys and Karns City, the fourth and fifth place squads, at the state championships in Hershey on Jan. 11. Punxsy placed ninth at districts, missing the state qualifying berth.

“They performed very well,” said Dana Hartman, the squad’s head coach. “We had a few stunts that didn’t go exactly as planned, but overall, the routine was good.”

At districts, each squad performs a two and a half-minute long routine that combines stunts, a dance and a cheer. Cheer co-captain Holly Hartman said Punxsy’s routine began with a cheer. When the music began, they transitioned to their main stunt, which they followed with tumbling. They did partner stunts next and finished their routine with a dance.

The cheerleading squad started preparing their district routine in November, the younger Hartman said. The cheerleaders have not typically choreographed their own routine in years past, but the senior members of the squad designed it this year. Hartman said this was because this year’s squad had a large number of seniors who worked well together.

“It actually worked out better,” she said. “The seniors were close and had a good bond, so we worked really well together and put all of our minds together and made the routine.”

Coach Hartman said the girls practiced their routine three times a week while also making time for cheering at football and basketball games. They also went to four competitions in November and December, she said, and used them to troubleshoot their district routine. The squad placed second in one of these competitions and third in another.

Even though the squad didn’t place at districts with their routine, Hartman said they excelled in a few aspects of their performance, such as solving mid-routine problems and dancing. She added that they smiled more and had more pep than usual. Coach Hartman said the performance was “far superior” to what it was in previous years and added that they pushed themselves to execute complicated stunts and dances to boost their “difficulty” score.

But their routine wasn’t perfect, Hartman added. She said the squad could have improved their stunt timing and attitudes.

“In the past, we haven’t believed in ourselves as much,” she said. “We just need to believe in ourselves more. I hope the program has more confidence in the future.”

Hartman has cheered since seventh grade, and she said this year’s squad was the best she’s ever had. Although they didn’t advance beyond districts or perform a flawless routine, she said they did well at both cheering and creating a strong bond.

“We didn’t hit our best performance,” Hartman said. “We didn’t perfect it, but we definitely improved ourselves from years before. And I’m just really proud of us sticking together and putting on a good performance.”