Sports Spotlight: Conley cheerleaders battle through COVID-19 to earn state title, travel back to UCA Nationals

Sports Spotlight: Conley cheerleaders battle through COVID-19 to earn state title, travel back to UCA Nationals

GREENVILLE, NC (WITN) – D.H. High School. Conley is home to state champion cheerleaders. A group that battled through pandemic protocols to compete for a title at the highest level in their sport. We feature them through a few of their leading seniors in this week’s Pepsi Sports Spotlight.

“It’s like a family. It’s like a sisterhood,” says Graceson Brinson, a senior D.H. cheerleader. Conley, “We all argue, we all have our days, but at the end of the day we know we’re a team. We want what’s best for everyone on the team.”

A family, mostly elderly, with a goal.

“We have 10 seniors on the team,” says Brinson, “We came together as seniors to want to go to UCA Nationals again this year.”

UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship.

“We have to go in 2020, in February, right before the world shuts down,” says head coach D.H. Conley Stephanie McLean, “It was a nice experience.”

For many of Conley’s team, this will be their second trip.

“The first year we went to UCA Nationals, we were kind of blindsided,” Brinson says.

“We want to be super tight and have a lot of spirit,” says D.H. Conley, senior cheerleader Sierra Stox, “We know a lot of the teams that go every year have a really good spirit, so we try to work on that.”

For two years, the Vikings worked on a comeback. COVID-19 also caused them problems with protocols…

“We had virtual competitions last year and it just wasn’t the same,” says Brinson.

“We used to do a lot of stuff online,” Stox says, “where we’d send each other videos of ourselves cheering and then working out.”

…and also affected them personally.

“I got COVID twice,” says Brinson, “Many members of our team got COVID.”

Despite everything, this group won the national championship.

“They won the first North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship this year,” McLean says.

“It was probably the most surreal experience I’ve ever had,” says Brinson, “It was like we weren’t expecting it.”

“So crazy. We weren’t ready to win national championships or anything like that,” says Stox, “so when they said our names everyone was freaked out and so happy.”

Now all I can do is control what I can…

“Guess the best routine we can,” says McLean, “We’re looking for zero deductions and the least amount of mistakes.”

… in the division of playing at Nationals…

“I’m just smiling the whole way,” Stox says.

“Put everything on the mat. We all do,” says Brinson. “That’s what makes this team so special is that we all go out there and give it 110% and never let up.”

They are off to Florida for the competition a week from Thursday. Their preliminary round is next Saturday morning.

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