- Cleburne High School
Cleburne Makes Top Ten in UIL State Spirit Championship
The Cleburne High School Cheerleaders were awarded tenth place in the finals of the 2023 UIL Spirit State Championship, as top performers among more than 70 teams competing in 5A-Division One.
Jacket Cheer was one of 20 squads selected to advance to the finals following their performances in the qualifying round of the two day-contest held January 13-14 in Fort Worth. Teams from 1A-6A high schools were judged on their school spirit and Game Day skills in three events: fight song, cheer/crowd leading and band dance.
Members of the Varsity and JV cheer squads came together in representing Cleburne in the contest, which has been a sanctioned UIL athletic competition since 2017. Those competing included Addison Tapia, Alexa Roberts, Toni Fabrizio, Bianca O’Bryant, Brelynn Whitlock, Damaris Luna, Jacelyn Mayberry, Jayden Butler, Katelyn Jones, Katie Barnes, Livi Estes, Madi McClure, Makenna Shields, Mariah Morales, Kiki Medford, Marlie Marshall, MattieLu Ward, McKenzie Barnes, Morgan Marvell, Olivia McGaughey, Raegan Stone, Rayn Wickliffe, Trinity Cruz, Ava Ulum, Hayden Tennison, Jolea Irvin, Luna Cardoso, Mandy Morales, Trinity Chambers, LeeAnn Brown, Angie Andersen, Megan Baadsgaard, Rowan Cagle and Dezerea Hess.
Cleburne carried their energy and focus into the finals, highlighted by their third-place score in crowd leading. The judges were “crazy” about their performance according to CHS Cheer Coach Christian Hardin.
“One of the first things we yell is ‘Cleburne, let’s get crazy!’” Hardin said. “That’s original to us and is a salute to our Cleburne Crazies who also keep spirits high from the sidelines. The judges told us how much they loved that shout-out in our efforts to engage the crowd. Apparently other schools do, too, as for the first time we heard some competing squads using ‘let’s get crazy.’”
“Our team gave their best in the qualifying round, and in the finals, they were amazing,” Hardin said. “Our seniors and those in leadership positions on the team helped set the expectation and the goal to advance to the finals this year. Our four-year team members wanted this so bad following three years of being right there—a few tenths of a point—from being among the finalists. All year this team has pushed hard to make sure they had the skills set they felt would get them to this goal.”
Olivia McGaughey, who has been a varsity cheerleader since the ninth grade, believes this was the ideal group of spirit leaders to get Cleburne to the finals.
“I think this was the perfect team, in my mind,” she said. “This team is special. We had the talent and from day one, the work ethic and motivation to make this all happen. When I heard we were making the finals, it was the best feeling ever. I was so excited. I’m not a hugger, but I was hugging everyone.”
Fellow senior Marlie Marshall is in her second year with the Jacket Cheerleaders. After years spent in gymnastics, she chose to tryout for the program as an incoming junior.
“Everyone on the team understood what it would take to win—and had that mindset,” she said. “We didn’t want to be good—we wanted to be great--in our performances and hit the goal of being finalists.”
“It helps to know that what you put in can pay off in the end,” Marshall said. “I think what we achieved as a team proves that. This also sets the tone for next year and the years to come. We have always been aware of the teams that have consistently made the top 20 and how they have made that part of their culture. This is the start to making it part of our culture.”
As Makenna Shields prepares for her last cheer tryouts as an incoming senior, she agrees the achievement will be a driving force and a new standard.
“The goal this year was to make the top 20 and the finals,” she said. “So next year our goal should be making the top ten in the finals—but I feel we can make the top five. I feel our finish at state is a big confidence boost for our program.”
The spirit generated by their achievement at the 2023 State Spirit Championship continues to resonate—internally and within the Jacket Nation—according to the leaders within the cheer squad and their coach.
“We were right in there with teams who have dominated in the past,” Hardin said. “This has taught our team that we are capable of being among the best. This has given them a whole new level of confidence and pride. I think this has done the same for the community. We’ve always been asked, ‘where’s Cleburne?’ Now, we are on the radar.”
McGaughey, who is among the 13 seniors on the team who will be graduating in May, says their finish at state has put Cleburne Cheer on the map, and strengthened the bond within the squad.
“I think we’re at a whole new level,” she said. “We came out of state a closer team. We are proud of us, as a team. I know people were talking about us, saying ‘who and where is Cleburne, how Cleburne came out of left field—and look how high they placed.’”
“I hope people will see us in a new light, as cheerleaders and athletes,” Shields said. “We’re not just shaking our pom poms on the sidelines.”