Already the foremost cheerleading program in the state, the Chesapeake Cougars are back at the top of Maryland once again.
Chesapeake regained its perch atop Maryland at the state championship meet on November 10 at Harford Community College, where the Cougars’ routine scored a 126.5, best among the field of 19 teams.
It is the program’s 12th state championship, the most of any program in Maryland, and comes in the more competitive fall season (cheerleading in Maryland holds state championship meets in both the fall and winter), when cheer teams around the state are typically at their deepest and strongest.
Head coach Lisa Elliott said the Cougars had confidence throughout the year despite refreshing their roster with incoming underclassmen.
“We said in the beginning and I feel like even in summer workouts, I just had a good feeling about this group, and I have told them since day one that there were big things coming this season,” Elliott said. “That’s what we’ve been building on.”
The team of Lindsey Peterson, Amber Brisbane, Ashley Brewis, Carlie Wilkins, Emma McNamara, Ethena Stallings, Jessica Dixon, Julia Nicoli, Kelli Hawkins, Kennedy McNulty, Liley Simmons, Mackenzie Porter, Maddie Gray, Makayla Frommelt, Rachel Snyder, Savannah Wright, Shaylah Hunt, Sierra Finnerty, Skylar Storm, Faith Todd, Haley Steele and Isabelle Hann didn’t just capture the state championship. Chesapeake swept through the postseason with a county championship on October 24, a region championship on November 3 and the state title on November 10.
Elliott noted the maturation and pressure performances of underclassmen fliers Simmons (a freshman) and Wilkins (a sophomore) and said the team improved with each practice and performance.
“I think they just started buying in,” said Elliott, who coaches the team with assistant coaches Lauryn Freburger, Joe Vecchioni and Nicki Abey. “After counties, we got the jitters out there, and we kept them focused and knowing they could. Then we had the region title, which was awesome. We just went into each one saying it’s a stepping stone for the next, and then when we got to the big show, we just put it all out there. It was a nail-biter, and we knew it was going to be close, and that’s good. We just said, whatever happens, happens. We did what we needed to do.”
An interesting footnote is that Chesapeake’s stiffest competition at states came from Linganore, which finished as runner-up. Chesapeake and Linganore’s football teams squared off in the state semifinals a week later, a game won by the Lancers with both cheerleading squads looking on.
Brewis, a junior, praised the leadership of senior captains Peterson, Wright, Finnerty and Stallings.
“We had strong captains this year and really great leadership, and they knew how to bring us together,” said Brewis.
Dixon, a junior, said the team overcame early difficulties but clicked when the stakes were raised.
“I think we really came together as a team toward the end of the season,” Dixon said. “We had our struggles in the beginning, but we just came together in the end. Working together as a team was our biggest challenge, and once we got that together, we were solid the rest of the way.”
With a fall state crown in the bank, Dixon said the team’s year is not slowing down now.
“Since I’ve been on the team, we’ve been more of a winter team, and we’ve fallen short in the fall,” she said. “We really harped on that this year. We want to win both.”