Be a Sharpie -- not a pencil.
That may seem like an unusual rallying cry for a cheerleading squad, but Buffalo Grove Coach Jeff Siegal says it captures the mental toughness of a coed team that won the school's third state title in four years.
The veteran group, Siegal says, understands that there are no redos, no timeouts, no chance to erase mistakes on the biggest stage.
"These kids were on fire. They were determined," Siegal said after the squad delivered their championship-winning routine Saturday in Bloomington. "They've worked hard all year."
Saturday's win also means Siegal has led a coed team to the state championships eight of the 11 years the Illinois High School Association has hosted the series (the first five were at Elk Grove High School).
But he wasn't really counting before the squad took the mat in front of a packed arena at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
"I take nothing for granted," he said.
Defending champs always face a certain amount of pressure. But consider this: The athleticism displayed by teams who advanced to the finals is the "best it's ever been" in the state, Siegal said.
"We had to up our skill level to match them," he said.
It paid off with a trophy that got a front seat -- and a seat belt -- on the bus ride home to Buffalo Grove. On Monday morning, the squad will hoist that piece of hardware during an all-school assembly.
"They were ready to lay it all out there," Siegal said.
In the large division, Neuqua Valley in Naperville took third place. Other suburban squads ended the season with a strong performance in the state finals. Here's who rounded out the top 10 in their categories:
Coed: York, Elmhurst; Lake Park, Roselle; Metea Valley, Aurora; Grant Community, Fox Lake; and Conant, Hoffman Estates.
Large: Huntley; Lake Zurich; Stevenson, Lincolnshire; and Wheaton North.
Medium: Crystal Lake Central; Wauconda; and Grayslake Central.
Small: Timothy Christian, Elmhurst.