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The Pitchfork

Game day cheer team sticks the landing, third in state

Photo by Zaria Byers
Marietta High School’s Game Day cheer team (Emma Johnson, Makayla Farris, and Ava Jane Denny not pictured) celebrates their state win while displaying Blue Devil spirit.

The month of December marks the be- ginning of Game Day Cheer competition season. Game day cheer differs from other forms of cheer in the sense that it is focused on crowd engagement. Game day cheerleaders use poms, signs, megaphones and catchy chants to promote spirit in their audience. At both basketball and football games, the cheerleaders serve as motivation to the team as they perform on the sidelines in their signature combination of uniforms and red lipstick.

During Game Day competitions, the same energy from sports events are expected to be transferred to the mat. Marietta High School’s cheer team began competition on Dec. 2. The girls had been preparing for competition since their pre-season in June, by weight training and doing workouts through- out the summer. During the school year, they began attending rigorous practices that increased from meeting once a week to every day. At each practice, cheerleaders are required to start by rolling out the heavy mats. Afterwards, they jump-squat and lunge-squat 10 times, without stopping, in addition to a few other exercises. They then stretch in several different ways. “Practicing was so tiring because once we got to our choreography, we had to keep doing the routine multiple times to fix the small things within it like stunts and formation. This contributed to the team’s performance by allowing stamina for such a tiring routine while maintaining to look sharp,” Toffy Siriveerawan (12) said.

In addition to practicing, the cheer team also engaged in UCA Camp and stunt classes. These programs helped the girls perfect their moves and maintain discipline. They also choreographed their Game Day dance routine. Their coach, Stanecia Nelson, went to the extent of requesting a choreographer that she met in Texas.

The strenuous practices, classes, and camps prepare them for the complex stunts that they perform for competitions. In a typical competition, the cheerleaders will execute extensions, which are supposed to look very clean and sharp. They also perform a variety of other structures and moves to impress the judges. The team’s maintenance of solid extensions, stunts, and chants served them well during their game day competitions. The team began their first official competition on Dec. 4, where they traveled to Lanier High School. The event was Lanier’s Game Day on the Ranch Competition, where there were six 7A teams competing in the high school game. Marietta’s cheer team placed first.

The team then progressed to the 2023 GHSA Game Day State Championship at Georgia State University, where they placed third out of 22 teams in the state. There were only 11 finalists in this championship. This win marks their fourth placement as finalists and their record placements in the division.

Aside from the time and consistent practice put into the sport, the cheer team can also cite members of the Marietta community as a source of fuel. On Dec. 7, Marietta High organized a send off in support of the cheer team’s success. The team agrees that the gathering motivated them before competition day.

“There was so much love in the atmosphere and so much support from family, friends, and our coaches,” Zariaha Smith (12) said.

Game Day will be ending in December as opposed to a usual February ending. This adjustment kept the overlap of Basketball Cheer to a minimum, which allowed the team to have a better focus. Without having the extended Game Day time period, they were able to see a short-term goal within reach. This also improved the overall atmosphere of the team. Over the course of their time together, the cheer team has built a sense of community. They have established friendships that their coach, Stanecia Nelson, says is quite noticeable.

“This year, the team’s chemistry was very loving. These girls liked each other so much that they would get in trouble for wanting to socialize all practice. I do feel that less drama and more loving teams are better, but we will be looking for a balance next year,” Nelson said.

Connections were also formed between the girls and their coaches, as they served as a source of inspiration. Their efforts to put the team in a positive mood before practice were widely appreciated by the team.

“The week of our state competition, Coach Nelson bought two stuffed animals which were the mascots of our top two competitors. She had those stuffed animals sitting at practice to remind us who the real competition was,” Siriveerawan (12) said.

Nearing the end of the season, the seniors will be leaving the team in the hands of the underclassmen. While the team has a strong group of rising juniors, strong and skilled applicants are needed to balance the group. Makenzie Carter, a senior, has high hopes for the future of the team.

“This team’s journey has been really fun and loving. Next year, I expect the team to continue to grow. We have resources and our amazing underclassmen to make us proud. I believe that they will bring back a ring next year and make history,” Carter (12) said.

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About the Contributor
Zaria Byers
Zaria Byers, Print Editor-in-Chief
Zaria Byers is a senior in the IB Career Pathway at Marietta High School. She currently serves as the print editor-in-chief of  Pitchfork, Marietta High School’s newspaper. Her work as a student journalist has earned three GSPA all-state awards. She is also a dedicated member of the Environmental Club. Outside of school,  Zaria is involved in Mount Paran Church youth and outreach. She spends her leisure time photographing, reading, traveling, and attending events in her local community. She also enjoys exploring all sky phenomena. She has aspirations of becoming a copywriting manager post-college.
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