NHS cheerleaders repeat as state champions in co-ed small division
Although still the favorite to win its sixth consecutive OSAA state championship, there was more uncertainty for the Newberg cheerleading team than in any recent season.
For one, the Tigers didn't feature any returning seniors from last year's team, which moved from the 6A small division to the co-ed small division for the first time after senior Adam Markle joined the squad.
Although not at full strength, Newberg also had a fall in its most recent competition Feb. 3, leading to a rare second-place finish.
The Tigers, however, appeared unfazed Saturday, posting a clean routine to win handily over runner-up David Douglas.
"The week before state all of our practices felt really good and everyone worked hard," junior Darien Payne said. "We did feel pretty confident going into state and we knew we could hit a clean one."
Payne was one of four junior captains -- along with Raechel Thompson, Yazmin Jones and Sophie Odom -- tasked with leading the young roster.
"They'd only been on the team two years, so they had to step up and challenge themselves, too," NHS coach Lisa Berg said.
The Tigers incorporated two new members who were completely new to the sport in senior Julius Small and sophomore Hailey Boggs.
"(Small) really brought the team together, I think," Payne said. "He has good character and was really fun to work with all year."
Berg said it's no easy feat for newcomers to get up to speed, but joked that for once she'd like to have a boy join the team well before his senior year.
"I get them when we need them and then they go away," Berg laughed. "So we're looking to ask some younger ones to maybe try out. I think they're afraid until they become seniors and then feel confident enough to say, 'Why not?' There's still a stigma, I think, with boys and Newberg cheering that I'd like to see go away."
Boggs proved to be a key addition as well, filling the difficult role of flyer with aplomb.
"She won all-state in November and then was part of winning state and she'd never cheered a day in her life, either," Berg said. "So to have two newbies out of 11 and be exceptional is pretty outstanding."
Newberg also posted a score of 202.40 to finish as the highest-scoring team at the meet for the second year in a row. It wasn't quite the 2010.90 the Tigers laid down a year ago, but it was 11 points higher than runner-up David Douglas. Newberg also beat the Scots by 10 points in 2017.
"This year was kind of a different year," Payne said. "We had a lot of younger kids, but we pulled it off. Hopefully this next year we can get stronger in everything and be successful again."
The team will not return to USA Spirit Nationals in California this spring to pursue a fifth straight national title and is therefore done with competition for the school year.
"It's really fun to go to nationals and bond with everyone, but we really focused on state being the most important," Payne said. "So I'm really glad we that we finished the season strong."