By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY February 8, 2002 For the first time in 10 years, cheers filled the gymnasium of a Sullivan County high school not in support of a basketball team or a volleyball squad, but for the cheerleaders.
Thanks to the Liberty High School cheerleading coaches, the school held its first annual cheerleading competition Saturday to give cheerleaders a chance to show off their skills in their hometown arena.
This is the first meet of its kind in Sullivan County in 10 years, explained jayvee Coach Patty Blair, who, along with varsity Coach Jessica Murphy, helped put the competition together.
Theres really been a need for it, Blair explained. There are great squads here in the tri-county area.
And instead of having these kids out on the streets, these are the kinds of things we need to do for them.
The competition pulled teams from across the area together Tri-Valley and Sullivan West girls went up against cheering squads from Kingston, James I. ONeill, Valley Central, Clarkstown and Our Lady of Lourdes.
Libertys teams, as host, did not compete, but performed an exhibition for the crowd that filled an entire set of bleachers in the high school gym.
The support of the crowd was one of the things Blair was most proud of, she said that so many parents and other teens had shown up in support of the girls.
The competition was judged by coaches of the St. Johns University cheerleading squad and an editor of American Cheerleading Magazine.
A Liberty High School senior, Sharlay Fields, plans to attend St. Johns in the fall and will join their cheerleading team which helped bring the coaches attention to the Liberty meet, Blair explained.
The judges were watching the teens for difficulty in their stunts, how well they worked together and whether they displayed excitement and spirit.
They wanted to see a unique performance something different from what everyone else was doing, Blair added.
The two and a half minute performance was to include stunts, cheers and a dance routine.
Tri-Valleys team used the competition as a chance to practice for the OCIAA Division meet scheduled for Feb. 23 in Middletown.
They were testing themselves to see that they could adhere to the strict one minute and fifteen second maximum for a dance routine and get through their entire performance, said Coach Lori Schmitz.
We try to have some original stuff, without getting too complicated, she explained. We try to make it short and concise.
This is really a practice for us to go to Middletown.
Schmitz, who has been a Tri-Valley coach for 11 years, complimented her team on their ability to work together.
They really are a team, she noted. Theres no I in this team.
Sullivan West coach Tara Brey said their squad came to the Liberty competition for the experience.
Their first year as a team made up of girls from all three campuses of the Sullivan West district has been a formative one, she said.
They work so hard, we just basically came for fun, Brey explained. Its their first year together and this is a good experience for them.
And having fun is what its all about, Blair said. The reason the Liberty meet was put together was to give the teams a chance to show off their skills, but also to have some fun.
If we dont do these types of things, we wont have anything for our kids to do for fun, Blair added.
Our Lady of Lourdes placed first in the varsity competition followed by Clarkstown in second and Pine Bush in first.
Of the three teams that competed in the J.V. meet, Valley Central received first place honors. Tri-Valleys squad and Pine Bush came in behind Valley Central.