By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY February 7, 2003 The members of the Liberty Central School cheerleading squad and their coach, Jesyca Murphy, have a lot to cheer about.
In 2002, the first annual Liberty cheerleading competition attracted 10 squads, while a total of 27 teams signed up for this years edition of the battle of cheerleaders in the Liberty High School gymnasium.
The 2nd Annual Liberty Indians Cheerleading Competition was held this past Sunday. Originally scheduled for Saturday, the event was postponed due to inclement weather.
The hosting squads had a lot to cheer about, as the competition packed the place with more than 400 cheerleaders pumped to the max and a crowd of several hundred parents and spectators up in the bleachers.
Murphy, who has been the cheerleading coach at Liberty for five years, also had plenty of reasons to cheer.
After missing last year to a serious medical problem the complications of which cost Murphy the amputation of her left hand and a three month stay in the hospital she returned to the floor to head up the annual competition.
My squad, though small, is a group of extremely hardworking, dedicated and talented girls, she said in the programs introduction. They keep me going and remind me what life is all about . . . smiling and having a good time!
Murphy recalled that when she attended Delaware Valley Central School, high school cheerleading was a big thing in Sullivan County.
I remember that our cheerleaders went to national competitions, said the 1989 DV graduate. We would go to basketball games to see our cheerleaders . . . thats just how good they were.
About three years ago, Murphy took her cheerleading squads on a trip to Valley Central High School so they could enter their first competition.
They where in shock, she said. They had no clue that this was what cheerleading was all about.
That experience started Murphy on a mission to return county cheerleading squads back to their glory days when folks turned out in droves to watch cheerleaders enflame youthful athletic spirits out there on the playing fields and courts during high school sporting events.
Murphy said the only way to get county-wide schools back on track with high-level cheerleading is to promote competitions at the various schools.
Returning to cheerleading was a big step for me . . . even though Ive been to hell and back, said the former Liberty High School social studies teacher. I thought it was important to show the kids that really bad things can happen [to you], but you can go on and be okay.
The 2003 Liberty Indians Cheerleading Competition was divided into four categories: All-Star Competition, Youth Division, Junior Varsity and Varsity.
Tri-Valley was the only Sullivan County squad to compete in the jayvee category, earning second place honors. Three local squads Livingston Manor, Sullivan West and T-V took to the floor in the varsity division.
The hometeam jayvee and varsity squads performed exhibitions to cheers from the Liberty crowd and fellow cheerleaders.
The panel of judges, all of whom were college cheerleaders, consisted of Alyson Casey, Camille Copcola, Mike Doce and Kimmy Sweet.
The panel judged the high-spirited cheerleading squads in 10 different categories, including crowd appeal, cheer execution, sharpness, dance, stunts, jumps, gymnastics and difficulty of routine. Points could be deducted for safety infractions such as improper stunting, spotting and/or move/dismounts.
Murphy said cheerleading in America was started by Jim Herke around the turn of the 20th century, in the days when cheerleaders were all men and referred to as song leaders.
Over the years, it has evolved into one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, she said.
As an AACCA (American Association Cheerleading Coach & Advisors) certified coach, Murphy said shes lucky that Liberty Central School Athletic Director Tim Bult views cheerleading as a sport and supports it like a sport.
According to Murphy, cheerleading is not officially recognized as a scholastic sport by the New York State Education Department.
Tri-Valley is the one Im proudest of, she said of this years event.
The T-V Bears cheerleading squad took second place honors in the jayvee category, the highest place attained by any Sullivan County team.
The T-V jayvee squad is coached by Tricia Macumber, one of Murphys former star cheerleaders at Liberty.
Up in the stands, the Bears unfurled a huge banner proclaiming, If Cheerleading Got Any Easier, It Would Be Called Football.
Its a cheerleading tradition that the cheerleaders take to the floor en masse between the rounds of competition.
On Sunday, the squads had a blast out there on the padded wrestling mats as DJ Brian Soller of Music in Motion had the joint rocking on its hinges and the kids stomping to beat the band with the music of today. Everything from The Slide to a bit of dirty dancing which raised a couple of eyebrows from the coaching staff was performed between rounds.
As each new group of contestants took to the floor, Soller read reams of cheergrams offering encouragement and a few laughs to the cheerleaders.
Patty Blair, a seventh grade math teacher at Liberty Central School, was kept busy selling cheergrams for $2 apiece. She boosted sales by telling folks that for an extra dollar, they could add a flower to their cheergram.
Results of the 2nd Annual Liberty Indians Cheerleading Competition
All-Star Competition: 1. Orange County Flames, 2. Cheer Time Shooting Starz, 3. Cheer Quest Senior
Youth Division: 1. Warwick Wildcats, 2. Cheer Stars, 3. St. Josephs
Junior Varsity: 1. Pine Bush, 2. T-V, 3. Minisink Valley
Varsity: 1. Kingston, 2. Pine Bush, 3. Washingtonville
Spirit Award: Tri-Valley