With months of preparation now behind them, the New Albany Cheerleading squad is ready to showcase their talent, as they will be competing in the UCA Dixie Regional Competition this Saturday, December 6 at the Bancorp South Center in Tupelo.
The squad has already placed first in the 4A Large Division in the MHSAA North Regional, and are looking to place at the state level this year.
“We’ve worked for endless hours,” coach Babs Stepp said of her squad. “We practice Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for about two hours. We’ve also been practicing some Sunday afternoons for a bit, simply because the girls are more rested after the weekend, so we tend to get more done on Sunday afternoons. We try to practice at least three to four times a week.”
With all of the time put into preparing for competition, it’s amazing that the girls are also active in many other facets of the school.
“They are really active. I have eight that play soccer, a few in the musical. They’re all doing something,” Stepp explained. “They’re in band and tennis, but cheerleading is a year-round activity, and I have about 10 to 12 that are totally dedicated to this.”
This weekend’s competition could earn the squad a bid to the UCA National Competition this February. The Bulldogs achieved this goal last year, but before they move on to the national level, they have goals set within the state.
“Last year we qualified with UCA, but then we didn’t place at state,” Stepp said. “I feel like if we can qualify for nationals and place at state, then we would be moving in the right direction, so who knows what will happen this year. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into this, both with the routine and financially, so we’re taking it one step at a time.”
When talking to the girls, particuarly the seven seniors, there is one goal that they’ve never accomplished.
“It would mean absolutely everything to place at State this year,” Kaylee Cochran said. “For me, I’ve never gone to a competition and won first or even second for that matter, so for me it would be one of my biggest accomplishments.”
“We’ve never won, but we have the capability this year to do it, so it would mean a lot to us,” Kayla Clark added.
For those who have not had the opportunity to watch the Bulldogs’ this year, Clark admits the difficulty, but says the girls are that much closer to mastering their routines.
“It’s pretty difficult, and it involves some things we’ve never done before, but we’re starting to master them, and we’re excited about it,” Clark said.
As far as the talent that has been produced from this squad, Stepp has seen at least six of her girls go on to cheer at the collegiate level in her 10 years as coach.
“My daughter cheered at Mississippi State for a couple years, and Jasmine Cook, Melissa Grace and Katie Tate have gone on to Northeast,” Stepp said. “I had like two from last year and a couple from the year before who have or are cheering at the next level.”
As for Cochran and Clark, the now teammates could very well cheer against one another next year, as Cochran will audition at Ole Miss in April, and Clark plans to tryout at Mississippi State, as well as with the UCA.
“It’s a summer internship, like a job,” Clark said of her possible position with the UCA. “We would teach and work with the high schools at camps. like what we go to, so I would be on the staff.”
Even with their bright futures in the sport, the girls are not looking ahead as they will have UCA this weekend, and State competition December 19-20 in Jackson.
New Albany will have two performances this weekend, as they will perform their pom routine at 10:35, then their cheer routine at 12:04. These same performances will be used at State later this month.