The blockbuster movie "The Hunger Games"and competitive cheerleading might make for an unlikely pairing, but really, both are about succeeding against the odds and never giving up.
At least, that's the thinking applied by members of the St. Charles East High School team that competed Saturday in the Illinois High School Association cheerleading sectionals held at Rolling Meadows High School.
"That's why we do the three-finger salute," said team captain Alessandra Lerario, referring to the gesture that in the movie signifies support for the protagonist. "We also have sayings like 'fierce and fabulous.'"
The school placed second in one of Saturday's two large team sectionals, just behind Neuqua Valley High School.
The other top scorers were James B. Conant High School in the other large team sectional, Vernon Hills High School in the medium team sectional, and Buffalo Grove High School in the coed team sectional.
Buffalo Grove coach Jeffrey Siegal said hard work matters, but so does true cohesiveness.
"As a coach, to have such a nice group of kids that genuinely like each other is really great," he said. "The kids worked really hard, and I have an outstanding coaching staff."
Among the hundreds of cheering spectators was Brianna Kolbus of Buffalo Grove High School, who is on the school's basketball team.
"They support us, so we want to support them," Brianna said. "I think it's a competitive sport and it's intense, and a lot of people don't give it a lot of credit."
Carlos and Yolanda Zamudio, whose daughter Jocelyn is on the Waukegan High School cheerleading team, made sure to videotape -- on cellphone and camera -- the team's performance.
"In Mexico we have cheerleading but not at this level," Zamudio said. "Doing this gives her the opportunity to hone her skills in different areas. She is more disciplined, and of course it gives her more training for all sports."
Waubonsie Valley High School cheerleader Jessica Taylor said her team, which competed in the large varsity class, didn't do as well as they had hoped.
"It wasn't our best. We cracked under pressure," she said. "But we worked very hard, and we're going to work harder on our goal to get to state."
The top five in each category made it to the state finals to be held next weekend in Bloomington.
In addition to the winners that also includes:
• In the large team class, Rolling Meadows, Stevenson, Maine South, Lake Zurich, St. Charles East, Naperville Central, Metea Valley and Bartlett high schools.
• In the coed team class, Barrington, Hoffman Estates, Elk Grove and Palatine.
• In the medium team class, Glenbard South, Timothy Christian, Montini Catholic and Fenwick high schools.