That’s what the Chesapeake cheerleading team completed on February 13, when the Cougars delivered a near-flawless routine to score a 126.2 and beat 20 teams to win the state championship at Harford Community College.
Just like they did in the fall of 2018, the Cougars swept the postseason this winter, winning county, region and state titles to cap a perfect sweep of varsity competition this school year.
The performance at Harford Community College in the state championship meet combined an array of complicated stunts, synchronized movements and high-energy acrobatics, all delivered with almost perfect precision.
“Lots of practice, that’s the key to getting 24 people to look like one, which is the goal,” said Chesapeake head coach Lisa Elliott. “The bigger the team is, the more challenging it can be, but our kids just click. It comes back to many of them starting in the young ranks together, to where they know how to complement each other as they’re growing. Then, we just work really hard at highlighting everyone’s strengths.”
The team of Ashley Brewis, Amber Brisbane, Jessica Dixon, Sierra Finnerty, Makayla Frommelt, Maddie Gray, Isabelle Hann, Kelli Hawkins, Shaylah Hunt, Briana Krammer, Emma McNamara, Kennedy McNulty, Avianna Negron, Julia Nicoli, Lindsey Petersen, Mackenzie Porter, Liley Simmons, Rachel Snyder, Ethena Stallings, Haley Steele, Skylar Storm, Faith Todd, Carlie Wilkins and Savannah Wright, coached by Elliott, Joe Vecchioni and Nicki Abey, brings together girls in all grade levels for the latest iteration of Chesapeake cheerleading excellence. The state title is the Cougars’ record 13th all-time, and Chesapeake also has 17 county championships and 15 region championships, both records. Petersen and Finnerty, senior captains, have won five state championships in their high school careers.
After winning county, region and state championships this past fall, the Cougars retained all three titles by improving as the season went, scoring a 122 to win the winter county championship, 125.9 to win the region and 126.2 at states.
“As a team, I think we performed very strong,” said Nicoli, a sophomore. “We practice and work on our weaknesses. In the state performance, we really perfected our weaknesses … Coach Lisa and our coaches are a really big part of our program for making us the best program that we are, and they are a really big part of our success.”
Storm, a junior, said the team’s members offer constant encouragement to each other to perform freely without fear of mistakes.
“We just let everyone know that if something little happens to go even harder and make it look it better and just forget about what happened, and mainly to just have each other’s backs,” she said.
Krammer, a freshman, said she’s been impressed by everyone in the program supporting each other.
“What jumps out to me the most was how everybody was so welcoming and understanding and willing to help. If you ever need anything, they’re always there for you, and you can talk to them about anything,” said Krammer. “It was a really good feeling to know that you were part of such an amazing program, and winning it feels even better.”
Chesapeake athletic director Chip Snyder spoke proudly of the sustained success of Chesapeake cheerleading through the years. The team swept county, region and state championships in both the fall and winter seasons from 2008 to 2011, and then saw the “Chesapeake effect” raise the level for other programs seeking to emulate and replicate the Cougars’ success.
“[Other schools] have had their runs, but the one thing that stays constant is Chesapeake cheerleading,” said Snyder, adding that Elliott’s passion and involvement with the kids — everything from leading the Panthers program to making sure kids stay on top of their schoolwork to organizing events and fundraisers — has kept the program at the top of Maryland.
“The main reason we’ve been so good for so long is Lisa is constantly trying to make us better,” he said. “She could have easily sat back with two titles, three titles, and said, ‘Hey this is great, we won.’ But she’s an innovator. She loves the family atmosphere. The kids respect the hell out of her. It is a family event. She is so involved with all their lives. She is hands-on with the whole program. It’s amazing, the time and energy she puts in. It’s her passion.”
Elliott, who founded the Panthers cheerleading program in 1999 — the Panthers will have a 20-year anniversary celebration this September — said the girls coming up have made the program what it is, despite the perception outside school that somehow winning comes easy for Chesapeake.
“We hear, ‘Oh, they always win, this always happens for Chesapeake,’ but it doesn’t feel like that when you’re in it,” said Elliott. “They work for it. Nothing gets handed to them. They work hard to earn every single title they have. So we’re definitely super proud.”
She added that the girls maintain standards of excellence on and off the mat.
“These kids are awesome in every aspect,” said Elliott. “It’s far beyond cheerleading. They’re great students. They’re great volunteers in the community. They’re just package-deal kind of kids. I think that feeds into the success the program has, because they’re such a tight unit as people.”