HEFLIN — A procession of fire engines, police vehicles and carloads of parents and well-wishers rumbled down Ross Street Thursday morning to send off 19 Cleburne County High School cheerleaders on their journey to Birmingham to compete for a state title.
Although the team did not win Thursday night, Valencia Cantrell Russell, the team’s coach, said she was proud of the team.
“They did really well, we didn’t come in first or second, they only did first and second place, we just came up a little short. They left it on the mat, they gave it their all and they did their best, it just wasn't what the judges were looking for this year. But they did really well,” Russell said.
Before leaving on the bus the cheerleading team walked the halls of the school as all the students lined the walls in a show of support. To kick off the journey the cheerleaders waved to onlookers as the spirited caravan made its way to Interstate 20 — almost a dozen employees from the courthouse, including the circuit clerk and the revenue commissioner, cheered and waved as the noisy parade went by.
Last year the cheerleading squad won first place in the Alabama High School Athletic Association state cheer competition; it was the first team state championship in school history in any sport.
Last month the wrestling team won a state title in the AHSAA duals state tournament, a feat that the school’s principal, Jeffrey Bryant, said was “very special.”
“For Cleburne County, that’s huge to have back-to-back championships in different sports in consecutive years,” said Bryant.
Before their departure, the cheerleaders were nervously getting ready, finalizing their hair, makeup and applying “tiger tracks” — painted dots with the school colors — to each other’s faces.
Prior to departure, Russell said the team would be performing its football sideline routine along with chants and other formations.
The senior captain of the team was Anna Leigh Embry and the junior captain of the team was Savannah Morrow.