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Cheerleaders Place in UIL State Spirit Championship Finals

Cheerleaders from Belton High School and Lake Belton High School made school history when both squads earned a spot in the UIL State Spirit Championship finals last month in Ft. Worth. 

The LBHS team placed 12th out of 20 finalists in UIL 5A-D1. The BHS team placed 17th out of 20 in UIL 5A-DII.

“It was an exciting experience, for sure,” LBHS Coach Laura Bulls said. “We performed in the morning and found out after 9 p.m. that we made it to finals. We were still practicing at the hotel so we were able to tell the athletes all together. There was an eruption of happiness and relief.”

BHS Coach Kristin Hennage said only three of her 30 cheerleaders had competed at UIL before, and many had no competitive cheer experience.

“These athletes proved that if you work hard for something and stay dedicated, you can achieve great things,” Hennage said. “They went up against the most talented teams in the state and still were able to perform as one of the best. We were extremely proud of the team.”

At the prelims, the teams performed a band chant, crowd-leading cheer and fight song including a mix of signs, megaphones, pom poms, flags and stunts.

The finals added to those elements a situational response cheer — where an announcer calls out something the cheerleaders might hear during a football game.

“The team has to be able to process the call — something like ‘The Broncos need to get the stop here to get the win’ or ‘That’s another first and 10 for the Broncos’ — to understand if our team is on offense or defense,” Bulls said. “And they have to react with an appropriate chant to lead the crowd, also using signs, stunts and poms.”

BHS sophomore Kelis Smith, in her first year cheering, said the sport has taught her patience and perseverance.

“One thing I will remember about this team is how much a family we were,” Smith said. “We cried, laughed, sang and even raced each other to the bathroom. I’ll just remember the learning experience, how I found my voice in becoming a leader and how intricate cheerleading is.”

Junior BHS cheerleader Taylin Rynkowski has cheered competitively since fourth grade. 

“It involves working together to accomplish a goal alongside some of your best friends, cheering on the school and team you love,” she said. “We were able to cheer on the success of our football team and also be recognized for all the hard work we put in during the competitive season. For me, it’s everything you hope for your season to be.”

It was an especially meaningful competition for Lake Belton, which competed with its first senior class. The school opened in 2020 with only freshmen and sophomores and has added a grade level each year.

“We have been able to just add people every year up to this point, so we have never experienced the ‘lasts’ that come with a senior year until now,” Bulls said. “It was bittersweet for sure. We went to UIL for the first time last year, and now they were able to be on the finals mat with us.”

LBHS senior Ryley Ellis, who has cheered for six years, said it was a great year of lasts.

“It was so rewarding to have all our hard work finally pay off. We didn’t make finals last year and this was the goal,” she said. “We also got to perform in the arena this year, which made it even more special.”

LBHS senior Sofia Vincent loved being part of a community that supports all school events.

“It feels really good to have a successful season because we did our best and because of all the hard work we put in as a team,” she said. “We set a goal and accomplished it this year.”

LBHS junior Jameela Cordero will remember walking off the mat from finals.

“Backstage, there was a unique feeling of pride and sadness because that was the last time with our seniors,” she said. “It felt amazing and painful at the same time.”

The BHS team includes Briley Campbell, Nathan Carrasco, Paige Champlin, Addison Crouse, Addison Dunahoo, JezzieMarie Gracia, Malorie Holman, Sydney Isdale, Alexia Martinez, Briyana Mendoza, Avery Rivera, D’Alessandra Rivero, Taylin Rynkowski, Kelis Smith, Sharon Turner, Kimberlyn Wiggington, Alexandria Yeargin, Katelyn Bailey, Sophia Detert, Vanessa Gauna, Destiny Schutz, Lauren Seidel, Brayton Torres, Abigail Weiss, Gracie Warne, Ailyn Berry, Alaina Jewell, Kirsten Rivera, Aubree Whiteside, Gabrielle Marek and Mabry Kennedy. They are coached by Kristin Hennage and Veronica Pinedo.

The LBHS team includes Ailish Scammell, Alexia Moffenbier, Allison Wren, Aubrey "Emmy" Lee, Avelina Betancourt, Brooklyn Cory, Chandler Stahl, Christina Walker, Emma Fertig, Erika Walker, Gabriella Davila, Hayden Presley, Holly Wilson, Jalynn Russell, Jameela Cordero, Jasmine Hernandez, Jocilin Kwan-Nguyen, Katie Taylor, Katy Briggs, Landyn Johnson, Lauren Stefek, Lorissa Hubbard, Haylee Thomas, Maya Yberg, Natalee Hoover Waltman, Presslie Vargas Leon, Rayne Cory, Ryley Ellis, Sofia Vincent, Tiani Hall and Taylor Love. They are coached by Laura Bulls and Marcia Russell.

Feb. 2, 2023