Dragons’ flight to victory

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Fairland High School cheerleaders came in fourth in their division at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship, which took place in Orlando, Florida from Feb 10-12 (Submitted photo).

Fairland cheerleaders place fourth at nationals

ROME TOWNSHIP — When the Fairland High School cheerleaders returned from Orlando, Florida this week, they had a big win they could celebrate.

In November, the team came in fourth place, out of 51 schools, in their division at the ESPN UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship, which ran from Feb. 10-12.

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Coached by Abbi Stitt, a Fairland graduate and former Morehead State University cheerleader, the team qualified for the national competition after a first place win at the Universal Cheerleaders Association Bluegrass Regional competition in Lexington, Kentucky, where they came in first in the Small Varsity Game Division.

Stitt said coaching the 12-member Fairland team was her first such try at doing so.

“I just graduated college in December,” she said.

“I had done youth league before.”

Stitt said the Fairland team arrived in Orlando on the Wednesday of that week, Feb. 8.

“We practiced Wednesday and Thursday and our first day of competition was Friday,” she said. “It was preliminaries, which are yours only guarantee to compete.”

She said, from there, they qualified to move on to semifinals.

“We got the judge’s comments back and we knew what changes we needed to make to improve,” she said. “So we made a few changes and worked on minor mistakes.”

On that Saturday, they competed in the semifinals

We worked in those changes and made improvements,” Stitt said, stating they were pleasantly surprised when they heard the results. We improved our score by four points,” she said. “And, in cheerleading, that’s a lot. It’s usually just one point.”

The semifinal performance came late in the day and Stitt said the team did not make it back to their hotel until midnight.

“We were excited just to make into finals,” she said. “And, the next day, we woke up, had breakfast, got ready and checked in for practice.”

Fairland High School’s cheerleading team qualified for the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Florida after winning in their division at the Universal Cheerleaders Association Bluegrass Regional competition in Lexington, Kentucky on Nov. 19. (Submitted photo).

Stitt said they did not feel the need to make as big of changes this time around and, after competing in the finals, they saw their score jump by seven points.

“It was amazing,” she said. “We did great.”

As a result, they made the top five in their division, Small Varsity Division II Game Day.

This is the second time in the past half-decade that a team from Fairland has gone to nationals and had placed high.

In 2020, a group, coached by Shawna Leep, attended the same event and placed fourth in the Medium Varsity Division II Game Day Division.

And two of the members of that team made a return visit this year.

Kaci Adkins and Ryan Henry were sophomores on the 2020 team and served as captains on this year’s trip.

Rounding out this year’s team were Kadence Ulrich, Lilly Rickard, Jena Picklesimer, Katie Stitt, Kinsey Wray, Charity Carter, Kennedi Fulks, Grace Miller and Mary-Kate Porter, Amelia Butler and Mackenzie Maynard. Stitt said there were members from ninth through twelfth grades taking part.

Stitt said the community came together to support the cheerleaders in this year’s competition.

“We had so many helping,” she said.  “We had a lot of sponsors — people who donated money, people who helped with buying clothes. Jill’s Tumble World let us use their space for practice. And there was the school, for letting us go. Everyone has been super supportive.”

Outside of Lawrence County, another team from the region did well at the event.

Greenup High School’s team scored second in their division and also first in the world division.