Gordon Lee cheerleaders ready to defend their state crown
The phrase “defending state champions” brought a quick smile to Gordon Lee cheer coach Mandy Sturdivant’s face, but when asked how her squad intends to repeat as Class A Public School state cheerleading championship, the smile up broke just a bit.
“We’re going to have to work really hard,” she said. “We have a young squad, but a very talented squad. We have as much talent as we’ve ever had and just as much as we had last year, but we just don’t have the same experience (as last year).
“We have three seniors and two juniors and lots of underclassmen, but the (underclassmen) bring a lot of talent to the table, so the potential there. Still though, we have a lot of work to do in the next couple of months.”
Those seniors include Chloe Keith, Ali Millican and Ansleigh Sturdivant, while the junior contingent is made up of Erica Jones and Autumn Uren.
“The good thing is that the seniors have cheered together all the way through middle school, so they’ve been together for a long time and they’ve always gotten along great,” Sturdivant said. “They got their first taste of a state championship last year. Now they know what it’s like and they want to do well (again). They also know the competition they’re up against, with teams like Trion, Commerce and Hawkinsville, so I think all of the returners are much more motivated (this year).”
The sophomore class includes Kaylee Claire, Kara Roper, Bailey Schrader, Baleigh Smith, Camden Tinsley, Asia Underwood, Kylie Walker and Jordan Yancey, while a large freshman group is made up of Kaylee Ashby, Ellie Bowers, Macie Cameron, Abbey Dunfee, Kailey Holmes, Marida Jackson and Raelyn Maddux.
“It’s a bigger freshman group than we’ve had in years,” Sturdivant said. “A lot of them came down to state last year, so they at least know what it’s like down there, even if they haven’t been on the other side of it yet. You can try and prepare a team mentally, but it’s different in that arena (in Columbus) than it is in any other high school gym that you perform in all year. Having a lot of them down (last year) there to see it is beneficial, I think.”
The veteran coach believes that tumbling is the still the team’s strength.
“It’s sort of a doubleedged sword,” she said. “We finally have some tiny, little girls with potential to be flyers, which we’ve needed. In past years, we’ve only had three or four and if one got hurt, we were in trouble. This year, we have several girls with the potential to be flyers if we need them.
“But the other side is, they are tiny, little girls and we need more girls than can be bases because we lost a lot from last year as far as strength goes.”
Still, the results have been promising so far as Gordon Lee took first place in the Class A division at their first two meets of the season.
With no area competition for Class A schools, Gordon Lee will head to Columbus in November, looking to win a sectional title on the first day of competition, or at least get into the top eight to advance to the finals. The Navy-and-White
won sectionals last year, paving the way for that long-awaited first state title.
“It was nice to win sectionals last year because then we knew we had that potential to do well the next day,” Sturdivant added. “We have to shoot for top eight (at sectionals) to be there for the finals and it will take hard work to get there. It won’t be easy.”
The Gordon Lee High School competition cheerleading seniors include (from left) Ansleigh Sturdivant, Chloe Keith and Ali Millican. (Photo by Scott Herpst)