Grant second, Antioch and Stevenson third at state cheer finals
When the judges of this year's IHSA competitive cheerleading championships announced that Antioch Community High School had earned an award in their division, co-head coach Tim Babin looked at the other head coach, and wanted to grab and kiss her.
Alas, with all of their athletes around them and going crazy about their finish, Babin had to maintain decorum.
"I gave her a big hug," he said. "We had a good moment together. I, obviously, had to keep it PG."
Babin's 20 girls took third place in the medium division on Saturday at the IHSA's state final in Bloomington. And this was hardly the first time that he faced the temptation to kiss his co-coach -- who is also his wife, Amber.
"I feel really honored to have been able to coach these kids this year," said Amber, a 2000 Antioch alumna. "It was amazing to watch these kids come together as a team."
Other suburban programs also finished well, including Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, which took third in the large division, and Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, which took second in the coed division.
Stevenson returned to the podium for the first time since 2006, when they also took third. The 2017-18 squad included 24 athletes.
"It's a super-emotional day for all of us," said co-head coach Jessica Murphy, who graduated from Stevenson "a long time ago," and coached Jorie Walton, now the other head coach, from 2006 to 2010.
Walton was an eighth grader the last time Stevenson earned a podium finish at the IHSA championship.
"Year after year, to want to hear your name called, and then for it to finally happen," she explained. "I've never felt anything like it."
At Grant, head coach Carrie Joray led her team to the school's highest IHSA finish ever.
"We're absolutely ecstatic," she said of what was also her first trip to the podium as a team leader. "We're beyond, beyond excited."
Her squad of 24 used a lot of "collegiate sign work," Joray said, which she believed caught the judges' attention. Eight of her athletes are freshmen, two more had never competed at the high school level, and Joray said they were in third place at the end of competition on Friday; she said she could see their nerves settling, and their performance improving, on the final day.
"I hope we've got amazing years ahead of us," she said of her young crew.
Amber Babin said she gave Antioch a difficult routine to perform, and their tumbling and pyramids were their strengths. The IHSA judges competitive cheerleading on 10 criteria, including jumps, choreography, showmanship and more.
"The kids are extremely humble," Amber said. "We don't ever take anything for granted."
And her husband did not take for granted the opportunity to walk across the stage with his sweetheart.
"I did steal a kiss," Tim Babin noted, "when we were up their on the podium, with everybody watching."