Suburban cheerleading teams headed to state

Confidence and a little attitude. That’s what high school cheerleaders from around Illinois put on the line at sectionals last weekend.

For the top 100 of them it paid off with a trip to the IHSA state championships starting Friday.

This is a huge event — tournament organizers anticipate more than 9,000 fans will attend the two-day event in the U.S. Cellular Coliseum at Illinois State University in Normal.

Many of them will be from the suburbs, eagerly following their favorite teams downstate, where they will compete in divisions based on school size (small, medium, large) and one category for coed squads.

Half the teams will be eliminated in Friday’s preliminary competition, leaving 50 teams to complete for the four division trophies on Saturday.

Tickets are $10 each day. For directions or lodging information, visit and click on Competitive Cheerleading.

The Conant Cougars, who won the large team competition at the Rolling Meadows sectional last Saturday, have uniforms with their names spelled out in sequins. They conveyed a winning attitude right from their first element.

“When the Cougars step out onto the floor, they are confident, they trust their teammates, and they perform with love and passion for the sport,” says their coach, Dana Musinski. “You can tell they are having a blast when they are competing.”

This year’s Mid-Suburban League champions they won their regional on Saturday.

Lake Zurich High School, who won the large school state championship last year, qualified at the Belvidere sectional, but it wasn’t a cakewalk, finishing in fourth place, behind Carmel, Stevenson and Jacobs.

Among medium schools, a veteran Antioch team — which placed second last year — clinched the top spot, followed by Grayslake North, Crystal Lake Central, Richmond and Prairie Ridge, a third place finisher at state last year, in fifth.

For John Hersey cheerleaders, this is their first trip to state since the IHSA sanctioned cheerleading as a sport. They are thrilled.

“We’ve really worked hard for this,” said senior captain Paige Panfil of Prospect Heights. “We added a huge basket toss right in the beginning and upped our tumbling to make it harder.”

St. Viator won the medium crown at the Rolling Meadows sectional.

“We have a consistent routine, but it’s our confidence we’re still working on,” says Anna Cirone, one of the senior co-captains. The Lions placed ninth last year and hope to improve this year.

Wauconda placed fourth in state last year, and its cheerleaders worked hard this season to raise the level of difficulty in their routine.

“We worked on our flexibility all year, in order to pull off harder stunts and tumbling,” said senior Nicole Staples.

DuPage schools were strong in the Joliet Central sectional, with Neuqua Valley, Naperville North and nearby St. Charles East taking three spots in the large school sectional.

In coed, an increasingly competitive division, the Buffalo Grove and Barrington squads won at Rolling Meadows. Lake Park, the defending champion, is also going back downstate, with Streamwood, Palatine and Elk Grove on its heels.

  The Wauconda cheer squad advanced to the state finals last weekend on the strength of its performance at the Rolling Meadows sectional. JOE LEWNARD/
  The Lake Park coed squad earned a berth at the state championships after its performance last weekend at the Rolling Meadows sectional. JOE LEWNARD/

Going to Normal

Suburban schools that will compete in the IHSA cheerleading prelims Friday, in hopes of advancing to the Saturday finals.

<b>Small Team</b>

Timothy Christian; Lisle.

<b>Medium Team </b>

Antioch*; Crystal Lake Central; Fenton; Grayslake North; Prairie Ridge; Richmond-Burton; St. Viator*; Vernon Hills; Wauconda.

<b>Large Team </b>

Addison Trail; Stevenson; Carmel*; Conant*; Glenbard North; Glenbard West; Jacobs; Hersey; Lake Zurich; Maine South; Neuqua Valley; Naperville North; Rolling Meadows; St. Charles East; Warren Twp.

<b>Coed Team </b>

Barrington*; Bartlett; Batavia; Bolingbrook*; Buffalo Grove*; Downers Grove South; Downers Grove North; Elk Grove; Grant Community*; Lake Park; Libertyville; Mundelein; Niles North; Palatine; Streamwood; St. Charles North; South Elgin.

* Won their sectional

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