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Bullitt Central squad returns to top spot

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By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – Capping off a week to remember, the Bullitt Central Cougars’ Co-Ed Cheerleading Squad captured the schools’ first Kentucky High School Athletic Association State Championship since 1975 last Saturday, beating out 13 other teams for the top honor.

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     Bullitt Central posted a score of 273.5 which was well ahead of the 267.4 for Graves County, the defending state champion.

     The Cougar program has always been one of the top cheerleading programs in Kentucky, having previously won state championships in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2011 when cheerleading was conducted under the direction of KAPOS – the Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors.

     Two years ago, the KHSAA took over the competitive side of the sport and they conducted their state championships last weekend in Lexington at the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park.

     As Bullitt Central head coach James Moore points out, the honor within cheerleading circles is pretty much the same be it KAPOS or KHSAA. However, with the move to the KHSAA, winning brings more recognition outside the sport.

     “For us in the cheerleading world it is as prestigious as it ever was,” Moore said as his team warmed up last week before practicing at Roby Elementary. “For the outsider looking in, they will respect it more. It’s the same teams we’re going against. The same caliber of teams.”

     Moore was the Bullitt Central head coach when they won the 2011 KAPOS State Championship.

     The big week for cheerleading in the area was supposed to start the previous Saturday with Sixth Region competition. However, bad weather canceled all school events on both Friday and Saturday, forcing the regional competition to the following Monday.

     At that point, Bullitt Central beat arch-rival Bullitt East as well as Southern as those are the only Co-Ed squads in the Sixth Region. There was little turnaround as the Cougars cheered that Friday in a doubleheader against North Bullitt before heading to Lexington.

     In addition, the day after winning the state title, Bullitt Central was in a competition that qualified the team for the UCA National Championships in Orlando at Walt Disney World in early February.

     (In UCA competitions, Bullitt East and Bullitt Central do not compete in the same division as Bullitt Central has a somewhat larger number of squad members competing. In the KHSAA competition, all Co-Ed squads compete against each other with a maximum of 24 cheerleaders on the mat at one time with at least eight of those cheerleaders being male. So, the only time that Bullitt Central and Bullitt East, a UCA National Champion last year, compete directly against each other is in the KHSAA events).

     Bullitt Central has had a Co-Ed Cheerleading squad for the past 21 years, a stretch that Moore feels is the longest in the state.

     For this season, Moore tried to tone down the competitive aspect for the team. Instead, they focused on just doing their best and letting the pieces fall where they may.

     “They were very happy when they won,” the coach pointed out. “But we have kind of changed our creed of how we approach the competitions. We only focus on ourselves to do our best. We don’t worry about other teams. We only worry about what we can control. We can only control what we do.”

     Still, there was a 90-minute span between when the Cougars competed in the finals and when the final places were announced. There was a nervous time before Graves County was called out as the runner-up. At that point, Bullitt Central knew they had the championship.

     “It was very nerve-wracking watching all the teams practice and watching the other teams perform,” Bullitt Central Nathan Hall said. “I felt like we would be top three for sure, but I wasn’t sure we would win.”

     Some of the Bullitt Central male cheerleaders are also football players. They thought it was great beating Bullitt East in the regional, but winning the state title was just as rewarding.

     “I loved it, it was a great feeling,” senior Cody Ford, one of the football players said of winning the regional. “At state, you feel you did good. You expect to do good.”

     Senior Jason Johns also does football and cheerleading. In the fall, those doing both went to cheerleading after the end of football practice. Once the football team was finished in early November, they concentrated on cheerleading.

     “I was real nervous before, but that all went away once the music started,” Johns sad. “We did a great job. They (Graves County) had won it last year, so it felt good beating them.”

     Bullitt Central senior Brooke Sweeney thought the team’s performance was strong, but there was still that long wait and a lot of chances at second-guessing.

     “I guess I was still shocked,” she said. “I thought we did really well. Just the waiting part was so tough on the nerves.”

     The only cheerleader who was part of the 2011 State Championship team on this year’s squad is senior Kayla Russell. She was a freshman on that team, but then stopped cheerleading as she focused on other endeavors before returning to the squad this season. Russell started cheerleading when she was 5-years old.

     “I was trying to calm the younger ones down,” Russell noted. “He (Moore) didn’t really talk to us about doing that. I just do it anyway.”

     This is a relatively young Bullitt Central squad.

     “This was definitely something we wanted to accomplish this year,” the coach noted. “We had some mistakes last year and we didn’t get to state. We wanted to comeback this year and make a statement and do well.”

     Bullitt Central is planning a special recognition for the team during the home basketball game on Jan. 10 against North Bullitt.

     Members of the 2013-2014 Bullitt Central Co-ed Cheerleading Squad are:

     Seniors – Cody Ford, Nathan Hall, Jason Johns, Nicola Kuehn, Kayla Russell, Brooke Sweeney and Matt Whitaker.

     Juniors – Taylor Boston, Brandon Crump, Veronica Dugan, David Greenwell, Chris Meador, Sabrina Owen, Brianna Porter, Sterling Rayhill, Zack Smith and Amy Stevens.

     Sophomores – Max Bozarth, Hannah Burnes, Austin Eitner, Zack Hall, Samantha Jeffries, Kelby Leadford, Miranda Rippy and Joanna Whitener.

     Freshmen – Peyton Bailey, Jordan Branham, Dariess Goff, Tristan Hawkins, Brianna Milby and Sabrina Traylor.

     Head coach – James Moore. Assistant coach – Traci Moore and Terry Cox.