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Article updated: 2/1/2013 5:39 AM

Hope is in the air as cheer squads head downstate

By

The Cougar marching band played the fight song and cheering students lined the hallways Thursday as Conant High School rallied behind its varsity cheerleaders leaving for the IHSA state cheerleading competition.

It was the kind of rousing send-off that took place at nearly three dozen suburban high schools.

"We're so excited," said Conant cheerleading coach Dana Muszynski. "We've hadan undefeated season so far, for the first time in school history. We're a young team, but they're very determined and driven."

The state series opens Friday at U.S. Coliseum in Bloomington. featuring the best 100 teams in Illinois. The teams compete Friday in the preliminaries, and only the top 10 in each of the three divisions return to compete on Saturday for the state titles.

Buffalo Grove was one of three coed teams to score higher than 90 at sectionals, and yet the squad is not taking anything for granted, says Coach Jeff Siegel.

"It was great to get that score, but it may not hold up at state," Siegel said. "We all start out the first day at zero."

Steve Quaglia, who coaches the Elk Grove squad, was a cheerleader himself at Schaumburg High School and Illinois State University.

"The level of difficulty is incredible," Quaglia said. "We're seeing skills we've never seen before at the high school level."

He points to throwing cheerleaders "full-up," where they do full body rotations, as well as pyramids with back flips all the way to the top.

"The difficulty is one thing, but it all comes down to executing your routine cleanly to make it to the second day," he added.

Vernon Hills High School won its sectional and returns to state, where it placed fourth last year in the medium division.

New head coach Jaclyn Weinstein says she worked on making the team more powerful and has been pleased at the results.

"Their pyramid has been a favorite with the judges," Weinstein said, "that and their enthusiasm and love for what they do."

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