And when the dust settled, they were able to stand up and call themselves champions once again.
Armuchee won the Class AA state cheerleading championship Saturday in Columbus after earning a score of 91.50 for their performance in the finals. It was just .33 of a point more than fellow Region 7-AA team Coosa, which finished state runner-up with a score of 91.17. Chattooga finished third.
The title is the second in a row for Armuchee and its third in the last five years. It also continues a trend of squads from Region 7-AA going on to take the state championship.
“It’s wonderful. I mean, you just never know,” Armuchee head coach Kelli Stamey said. “Our region is so tight and that showed again at state with the top three teams coming from 7-AA. We knew it was going to be close this year, and it was a matter of who could pull it out and score the highest in the end. It feels amazing.”
After coming in second to Coosa at the region competition by a quarter of a point, Armuchee had to earn its way into Saturday’s finals by competing in Friday’s sectionals. The squad led the top eight Class AA qualifiers, which included all of the other Region 7-AA teams.
Armuchee competed in the morning session at the Columbus Civic Center, and Stamey said she was encouraged by her team’s tumbling and overall energy.
“When they announced Coosa as second, I knew it was us because we were all so close,” Stamey said. “Shocked at first, because we missed a part of our pyramid, but then just overwhelming joy for these girls who have worked so hard over the year.”
Seniors Brynn Hall and Caroline Ray were still working to comprehend the meaning of their victory at state when the team arrived back at Armuchee High School on Saturday evening.
“It honestly didn’t feel real. We were all shocked. There were just so many emotions going on at once,” Hall said.
Stamey said the help of coaches Jennifer Dougherty and Niki Allen, along with the determination of the girls, helped them overcome minor injuries and sickness throughout the season and stay on track.
“We lost five very good seniors last year, so in a lot of ways we were kind of rebuilding to replace those five,” Stamey said. “We had a few more injuries than the year before, but they still had that same work ethic.”
Ray gave credit to the Armuchee community, their family and fans who attended competitions throughout the season and kept them encouraged when things didn’t turn out the way they wanted.
“I feel like just how much this community has supported us this season has really motivated us,” she said. “Every time we felt like we hadn’t done our best the community was here to tell us to get back up and keep going. They just kept pushing us every single day to do our best, and it finally paid off.”