The Oakdale team won the FCPS fall cheerleading championship

Oct. 25 — Cheers echoed through the gymnasium at Governor Thomas Johnson High School Monday evening, mingling with booming pop music — the unmistakable energy of a cheerleading competition.

Dozens of students competed in the district’s annual fall championship on Monday. Oakdale High School took home first prize.

Asked how it felt to hear her team announced as the winners, Oakdale head coach Courtney Devine used just one word.

Oakdale placed fourth at last year’s district championship, Devine said. And while she was pleased with the team’s performance on Monday, she didn’t expect them to finish on top.

Devine dealt with a difficult pregnancy this season, she said, and her squad had to overcome a series of injuries and illnesses.

That made Monday’s win all the more satisfying, senior Caitlin Perry said.

“I’m so excited,” she said, smiling. “It’s like all the work of the past four years has paid off.”

Perry is a back point, meaning she stands on the ground behind the flyer – the girl who is thrown up into the air – ready to catch her when she comes down.

Cheerleaders have to rely on each other for safety in a way that most other athletes don’t, said Terra Williams, the head coach for TJ’s varsity team.

“There’s a level of confidence that I think you get in any other sport,” Williams said. “And it builds this beautiful, beautiful sense of community.”

Williams, a first-year teacher at TJ, saw the team perform at a competition last year. It unlocked memories from her own youth, when she spent eight years as a cheerleader.

“I just fell in love with it again,” Williams said.

Candice Wells, a senior on Williams’ team, said she wasn’t entirely satisfied with their performance Monday. The team can do better, she said.

Williams agreed. One of the girls’ stunts didn’t go as planned, even though they had performed it perfectly earlier that day.

“The thing about cheerleading is you can hit it 200 times, and then not hit it once,” she said. “I hope they know that all their hard work is not in vain. We’ll be back tomorrow, and we’ll make it work again.”

Eight varsity teams from across Frederick County Public Schools — Tuscarora, Frederick, Oakdale, Urbana, Linganore, Middletown, TJ and Catoctin high schools — competed Monday.

South Hagerstown and Boonsboro high schools each also sent a varsity squad for a separate Washington County competition. Boonsboro won.

Linganore placed second in Frederick County on Monday night, and Urbana placed third.

The top eight teams in the Western Maryland region will advance to a regional competition in Bel Air next month. FCPS athletes must wait for other districts to hold their championships before they know if they have qualified.

Monday was the first time since the pandemic that county cheerleaders were able to compete at championships in a typical environment, without masks or crowd restrictions.

“It’s definitely better without the masks because you can fulfill your full potential,” Middletown senior Rylee Lucido said. “And you can breathe better too.”

Lucido’s teammate Hannah Lynch, also a senior, said Monday was the first time in her four years the team had a successful performance at the county championships.

“They left it all on the mat,” Middletown head coach Shannon Schneider said. “They did everything I could ask of them.”

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

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