Lindsey Corcoran was all smiles after finding out the cheerleading squad from Fremd High School in Palatine had qualified for the state finals.
"It's wonderful," said Corcoran, Fremd's cheerleading coach, while members of her squad screamed and hugged each other. "They've been through so much and worked so hard together. Getting to state was a goal for this team, and I'm so happy for them."
The Fremd squad was one of dozens from around the Chicago area that competed Sunday in the IHSA Sectional cheerleading competition at Rolling Meadows High School. Sectional competitions were also held Sunday at Grayslake North High School and Riverside-Brookfield High School in Riverside.
The squads that qualified Sunday will compete for state titles this weekend at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.
The teams competed Sunday in a variety of divisions -- Large Team 1, Large Team 2, Medium Team, Coed Team 1 and Coed Team 2. State qualifiers were chosen from each division. Fremd competed in the Large Team 1 division. Among the other qualifiers from that division were Rolling Meadows High School, Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, St. Charles East High School and Schaumburg High School.
Qualifying teams from the Grayslake North sectional included Barrington High School, Belvidere North High School, Mundelein High School, Wauconda High School and Grant Community High School in Fox Lake.
Bianca Battaglia, a member of the cheerleading squad at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, said the stress leading up to sectionals left her mind the minute she and her teammates took the floor. Montini competed in the Medium Team division.
"It's so hectic, preparing for it, but once you get there and you step on the mat, all that stress just goes away," the Elmhurst resident said. "I feel really good about how we did."
Arlington Heights resident Caroline Berman, who has two daughters on the Prospect High School cheerleading squad, said the sport has changed a lot since she was a cheerleader.
"It's nothing like it was," she said. "I'm amazed at how tough and skilled these kids are now."
Prospect did not advance to state Sunday, but Berman said simply participating in cheerleading has been a great experience for her daughters, Lauren, a junior, and Olivia, a sophomore.
"The physical part is one thing, but it also builds amazing camaraderie between everyone on the team," she said. "It's really great. My daughters even get along better during the season!"
Wheaton resident Jennifer Ciombor said though she's been watching cheerleading competitions for years, she still loves the events. Her daughters, Holly and Emily, are on the cheer squad at St. Francis High School in Wheaton.
"I've been going to cheerleading competition since my oldest, who's now 21, was in third grade," said Ciombor, who attended St. Francis herself, along with her husband, Tom. "This year was stressful because the bad weather made it difficult for the team to practice, but I thought they did really well."
For more on the cheering sectionals and the upcoming state finals, go to IHSA.org.