ROCKINGHAM — To say Richmond County was well-represented at the North Carolina Cheerleading Coaches Association State Championships would be an understatement.
A number of area families made the trip to Apex Friendship High School last weekend, Saturday, Feb. 3, to watch both the Rockingham and Ellerbe Middle School cheerleading teams compete in the non-tumbling division. And it was well worth the drive, as they witnessed Rockingham and Ellerbe finish first and fourth, respectively, in the six-team event.
The Lady Rockets racked up a total of 68 points on their way to being crowned state champions.
“I knew that they had worked crazy hard all season, but I think the girls just went in with the expectations of doing the best they could. Their reactions (to winning the title) were the most precious thing,” said Ashley Lupfer, who has been coaching at Rockingham for three years. “It was definitely rewarding to see that all of the hard work they put in had paid off.”
Since last May, when they officially tried out for the team, Rockingham’s cheerleaders hadn’t stopped working towards what they were able to accomplish at Apex Friendship. They attended the county’s cheerleading camp, went to a Universal Cheerleaders Association clinic over the summer and have been performing at games since the school year began.
Hayleigh McCormick came aboard this year to help Lupfer coach the Lady Rockets and has been more than impressed with the team’s ability to put together “phenomenal” routines despite the girls having different levels of experience.
“Some of them have never cheered before and then we have others who’ve cheered their whole lives and with competition teams. So for them to find a middle (ground)… it was really exciting,” McCormick said. “When it was announced that they were state champions, you could see it in their faces. They were so happy that they accomplished something.”
Ellerbe finished with 56.3 points on the day, placing behind second-place River Road MS (61) and third-place Edwards MS (60.1) but in front of Swift Creek MS (55.3) and Madison MS (55.2) in the final standings.
Before the results were announced, though, third-year coach Jordyn Pillar made sure the Lady Wildcats knew that she didn’t care about which spot they ended up in. Seeing them “light up” during their performance was rewarding enough.
“It didn’t matter if we came in last place, it didn’t matter if we came in first place. We competed in the state (championships), meaning anybody in North Carolina could’ve come to the competition,” Pillar explained. “I’m just beyond proud of where they were when I started to where they are now… We were just living on that high for however long that was.”
The state championships, which was the first time Ellerbe competed this year, wrapped up the season for both area schools. They were invited to the Nationals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but decided not to attend — which gives the cheerleaders some much-needed rest and allows those who play spring sports to do just that.
“It was such a humbling experience to see, when we got our spot on the mat, that we had not only Ellerbe cheering for us but all of Rockingham as well,” Pillar added. “It was almost breathtaking to see how those girls lit up. It was a big deal.”
Listed below are the Rockingham and Ellerbe Middle School cheerleading rosters:
Rockingham — Saniah Durham, Molly Erwin, Maggie Gillespie, Cayden Hood, Destiny Isler, MaKailah Jackson, Savannah Jordan, Cheyenne Leviner, Claire Maultsby, Kirsten McDonald, Leah McLeod, Jenna McRae, Zoie McSwain, Ashley Murphy, Kaley Scholl, Lilly Summerlin, Karter Walker, Maylyn Wallace, Laila Watkins, Abby Williams
Ellerbe — Ashlyn Bouldin, Katelyn Cagle, Adena Gibson, Akeya Harrison, Maya Ledbetter, Gracie Mabe, Sheila Martinez, Faith Massey, Natalie Meecham, Tatum Rhyne, Jamie Sears, Marissa Sweet, Kelsey Tarlton, Cadence Thompson, Alexia Watson, Makayla Webb
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at email@example.com. For stories,scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
The Rockingham Middle School cheerleading team won the state championship last weekend, Saturday, Feb. 3, at Apex Friendship High School.
Rockingham and Ellerbe pose for a photo after finishing first and fourth, respectively, in the non-tumbling division at the NCCCA State Championships.