Under the leadership of coach Katie Ward and comprised of five juniors, nine sophomores and four freshmen, this young team set a lofty goal during the summer, one that had never before been accomplished in either of the Effingham County high schools: to compete with the top teams from across the state of Georgia in the “Sweet 16” Finals Round of the State Cheerleading Competition.
Having earned numerous first-place finishes and even some grand champion titles, the team finished the regular competitive season on Nov. 6, 2010, and became the Region 2-AAAA runner-up, only a single point behind Evans High School. With only the top four teams from each region advancing, Effingham County High School joined Evans, Ware County and Greenbrier in advancing to sectionals for the 2010 GHSA state cheerleading competition.
While most students spent the Veterans Day school holiday relaxing, the ECHS competition cheerleaders boarded the school bus for the five-hour trip to Columbus. On Nov. 12, 2010, they competed among the state’s top 24 from Class AAAA.
In order to advance to the finals with the top eight teams winning region titles throughout the state, ECHS had to be one of only eight teams from sectionals that would qualify to proceed. As the names of the advancing schools were called, teammates gripped hands, hoping to hear their own name among the eight. Over the screams and celebrations that filled the Columbus Coliseum that morning, the words “Effingham County” could be heard as the final team advancing; all of the time, the hours, the practicing, sacrifices, dedication and passion for this sport culminated in this single feat.
The ECHS competition cheerleaders also represented Effingham County for the first time in the history of either high school in the “Sweet 16” round of the 2010 GHSA State Cheerleading Competition. The first-place teams from each of the eight regions in Class AAAA along with the top eight teams advancing from sectionals the previous day made for intense competition. ECHS earned the 12th place spot in the state for 2010 among such well-known programs as Starr’s Mill, Ola, John’s Creek and four-time state champions Northgate High School.
Team members include: Caitlyn Fears, Kellie Badger, Brooke Johnson, Kendall Claxton, Nikki Hamilton, Abi Johnson, Kyndle Calhoun, Dana Brown, Mattie Saxon, Mandy Roberts, Alissa Kelly, Doneshia Kennedy, Mallory Ansel, Meaghan Crowley, Tori Pippin, Taylor Price, Cassidy Henry and Michelle Pratt.