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CHS Cheerleaders Competing at UIL Spirit State Championships

                It was one of those rare moments for the Cleburne High School cheerleaders Thursday morning as they were the subject of cheers from the student body as they left for the UIL Spirit State Championships.

            The 29-member Cleburne squad is among the 5-A D1 Teams competing January 17 at the state contest taking place at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Taking the mat will be Katie Barnes, Leneigh Bennett, Marissa Bosher, Nadia Botello, Jade Boyd, Emma Burns, Aliya Carrizales, Ella Conley, Jazmin Contreras, Trinity Cruz, Rowan Eyman, Alyssa Falkingham, Karsyn Ford, Jaydn Govea, Kaylee Harmon, Nazeret Kuykendall, Madison Lynn, Morgan Marvell, Olivia McGaughey, Kyndal Medford, Raney Mead, Alexis Ortiz, Allison Perez, MattieLu Ward, Andi Whitefield, Super Jacket Megan Baadsgaard, Nathan Barnes, Adam Avants and Alexa Roberts.

             The state spirit competition was first piloted in 2016-2017 to coincide with the inclusion of cheerleading as a UIL extracurricular activity. This will be Cleburne’s third year to be among the state competitors. The Jackets finished 13th in last year’s finals, with the event focusing on the game day role cheer squads provide from the sidelines. Each team is judged on three specific performances: crowd leading, fight song and band dance.

            The Cleburne cheer team is ready to finish in the top 10 at the 2020 contest, according to Coach Christian Hardin and veteran squad members Aliya Carrizales and Raney Mead. The Jackets received a major vote of affirmation regarding their skill set and performance abilities with their second place finish at the Mustang Invitational Game Day Sprit Competition held January 11 in Grapevine.

            “Last year when we went to the Grapevine we didn’t even place,” Hardin said. “This year, we placed second, ahead of two teams that placed in the top ten in UIL last year.”

            Hardin, now in her third year with Cleburne, has dedicated herself to developing in her cheerleading athletes the performance skills required for their roles as the spirit leaders of their school and the home town crowd. She has also worked hard to have her cheerleaders believe in themselves-- the abilities they have and what they can do.

            “They did really well in preliminaries at last year’s state contest,” Hardin said. “I think they had a shock when it was announced they had made the finals. That threw them a little and they didn’t do as well as they could have. I told them over and over they had the ability to make the top 20, but it still shocked them.”

            “At the start of the school year, I told our 12 team veterans that everything we did would have a purpose that related to UIL,” she said. “In addition to expanding our squad to include a total of 29 on the mat, we’ve gone to a series of three-minute performances much like what is done at the UIL contest. They’ve gotten used to that. It’s gotten their cardio and endurance levels up as well their performance skills and expectations, individually and as a team.”

            Carrizales, who is sophomore and in her second year as a varsity cheerleader, said a different Jackets team has been on the floor this year.

            “We are such a different team, including veterans,” she said. “Our attitudes and our mindset is so much better. We have so much potential as a team. Our goal is to place in the top seven at UIL and I think we can do better.”

            Mead, a junior and a three-year team member, is very excited about what she feels the Cleburne squad will do in their performances at UIL.

            “Last year the goal was to make the top 20—and we made it,” she said. “This year we are more prepared to go above and beyond. I can’t wait to get out there and perform. I just want us to do exactly what we did last week, but with more energy. And I want us to prove to ourselves we can do this.”

            In addition to judging the cheerleaders as they go through their three presentations, eyes will also be on Super Jacket and the Cleburne Crazies, who will be assessed on the flag skills and contributions they bring to the game day experience.

            “The Crazies add a creative distinction to our team,” Hardin said. “Following our performance at Grapevine, I had a judge hunt me down to tell me she loved the Crazies. I heard that same thing at UIL last year. Everyone wanted to know where we got their overalls and I think we will see a lot of Cleburne Crazies ‘copies’ at this year’s contest.”

            “We’ve received a lot of positivity about our cheer program this year,” she said. “Our crowds have liked our Crazies’ flag waves and the energy of our cheerleaders. I’m happy to have a bigger varsity team this year and to see how well they have bonded with and worked with our JV team. My goal is to ultimately have 25-30 on the mat at UIL. That size will let us do more visually, do more with our skills on the mat and have more impact on the crowd.”

            Hardin is very pleased to see how far the CHS cheer program has come since her first year, when she was welcomed to Cleburne by a varsity team of seven.

            “We’re still building,” she said. “But I believe we have set a standard, and with tryouts around the corner, I’m very excited to see kids—girls and boys—coming out of the woodwork asking about cheer. I know on our squad the potential is there, as well as the skill.”

            “Our cheerleaders have worked hard and have made a commitment to the program and each other,” Hardin said. “I believe we’ve raised awareness about Cleburne cheer—why we’re here and how hard we are working to be the best. We’re all very excited to perform and represent Cleburne and Cleburne High School in state competition.”

            The day will be an early one, and hopefully a long one, for the team with their first performance in prelims set for 8:44 a.m. with the fight song presentation, followed at 9:38 with a cheer, ending at 10:41 with the band chant. Finalists will be announced at 2:30 p.m. with performances beginning at 5:30.



The Cleburne High School cheerleaders will be among today’s competitors at the 2020 UIL Spirit State Championships taking place at the Fort Worth Convention Center. Cleburne placed 13th in the state at last year’s contest.