Picayune Cheer reaches new heights placing 5th at Nationals

Published 8:22 pm Thursday, February 16, 2023

This past weekend the Picayune Maroon Tide Cheer team placed 5th in the Super Varsity Division II Non-Tumbling Game Day competition in Orlando FL. This was the Lady Maroon Tides’ first appearance in the National High School Cheering Championships (NHSCC) since 2003.

They competed against 22 other schools in Saturday’s semi-finals. They advanced to Sunday’s finals after placing 6th with a 92 score. The finals stage featured 11 schools and Picayune took 5th with a 92.2 score. Liberty Christian High School took 1st place with a 96.4 score.

Being away from the National stage for 20 years, Head Coach Jessica Smith had set only two goals going into Orlando. First, was to make the finals cut, and their second goal was to place top five in the finals. Both were achieved and marked as the highest placement the Lady Maroon Tide has ever received.

“We were really excited to meet both of those goals,” she said.

Assistant Coach Heidi Arthur also commended the team’s perseverance and ability to tweak their routines during the weekend and all season. From their first competition in October, all the way up to their last, Arthur said,

“They were all in for any changes that needed to be made in order to win.”

This comes from the cheerleader’s ability to be adaptable.

“We have to be adaptable to changes, it’s not really anything new, we were kind of expecting it,” said Lee.

Smith said after the semi-finals they didn’t have that many adjustments to be made, so it felt easier to go about it, which ultimately led to their high placement.

“We made a few changes in the morning before finals. They were great, they bought in and did what they needed to do,” said Smith.

Outside of breaking a 20-year drought, senior Captain Sarah Lott said the NHSCC experience was fun and it was great to have the senior class altogether for one last competition. In her first year competing in Nationals, she learned positive affirmation amongst teammates goes a long way.

“I feel we did better when you hear encouraging words from your teammates, it really helps your (that) confidence,” said Lee.

“It was a lot of hard work and dedication that came together just for that common goal,” said Smith.

Lee who’s cheered for the Lady Maroon Tide all four years said she will miss the program a lot.

“I’m gonna miss the people a lot, and the team atmosphere.”

Smith said in February of 2022 the team had decided to make a run for Nationals and from there everyone was in unison and focused on working towards this goal. Now that it’s been written in stone, Smith says she can’t think of a better way to end their season.

In terms of the program moving forward, appearing in Nationals is now a yearly standard. Smith wants to continue to push forward, be successful, and allow the National’s appearance to push the program to be its best.

“This gives us a starting point,” said Assistant Coach Heidi Arthur. “We’ll have new goals for next year, we obviously want to better ourselves from the previous year so we’ll have that on our mind going forward.”

The coaching staff said 2024’s goals are to go back to Nationals and to do better and it starts very soon with training beginning after the school’s spring break.

“We’ll use the critiquing and maybe the spots where we feel like we need improvement and start honing in on those spots from the very get-go,” said Arthur.

Smith’s message to the new class of Lady Maroon Tide cheerleaders is, “get ready to work.”