VICTORIA — The short-handed Riverheads Gladiators cheered and performed their way to the championship Thursday during the Class 1 Super Regional competition cheerleading event competed at Central Lunenburg High School.
The title propels the Gladiators, who were down to seven healthy cheerleaders for the event after an injury and illness, into the Class 2 state tournament for the second straight season. The state meet is scheduled for April 17 at Lord Botetourt High School.
“We started the week with our full squad of nine, but one girl had to drop out because of an injury sustained last week,” Riverheads head coach Amanda Hemp said. “So we reworked out routine for Tuesday, and then another girl came down with a stomach bug that forced her out. We were down to Plan C at that point. I couldn’t be prouder of the seven girls that were out there today.
“We put in a long practice Wednesday and then showed up at 6:15 Thursday morning for another short practice before leaving school at 7,” Hemp said.
Riverheads will be the only Class 1 team to perform at the state level. Class 1 had just four teams throughout the state that had competition cheerleading squads this spring. All four competed Thursday at Central Lunenburg, and only the champion advanced.
Besides the Gladiators and the host school, the other two Class 1 schools that competed were Auburn and Rappahannock (Warsaw). Central Lunenburg and Rappahannock were eliminated after the first round of competition, leaving the Gladiators and Eagles in a win-or-go-home scenario for the lone state berth.
The Gladiators, who scored a 240 in the first round, put together a better performance in the second round with a 235 to clinch the state bid and send Auburn home empty-handed.
“We were the last team to compete in the first round and the first on the mat for the second,” Hemp said. “We had maybe 15 minutes between both routines. Maybe that short time span was good for us as we didn’t have a whole lot of time to think. We didn’t have any deductions even with only seven girls.
“I am so thankful for a strong coaching staff to get everything in place on the fly and the girls were so willing and eager to do everything they could to make today happen.
“Now we have another week of practice to get ready for the state,” Hemp said. “You always want the season to go to the last possible practice. That means you have been successful.”