Union High School Cheer

First-Time State Champions

Class 3A Small Performance Division

Ahead of Union’s first run for the state championship, the team practiced their routines all together about twice. This year, the regionals competition was a series of taped and presubmitted videos because of COVID-19, and for five weeks prior to that taping, one stunt group had never had all members present at practice. For two weeks in October, the entire 13-member team was quarantined, and at least one cheerleader was out at a time from mid-November through mid-January.

But Head Coach Sarah Otto said she knew as early as the tryout that this year’s team would be special, capable of rising to the challenges imposed by COVID-19.

“They came in with amazing tumbling skills. By the end of our season, we had 10 (able to do) standing back tucks and four (able to) full-land on the dead mat,” Otto said. “The skill progression of this group has been outstanding.”

At the beginning of the season, the team made a goal board to track its progression. Otto said it helped members stay motivated amid the uncertainty. The team couldn’t hold summer camp, the competition season was pushed back with some competitions canceled outright, and the regional and state competitions were nothing like in previous years with video submissions of routines. 

“This has been a difficult year on so many levels,” Otto said, “but they persevered through it all and came out on top.”

 

St. Francis Borgia High School Cheer

Eighth Consecutive State Champions

Class 3A Large Schools

Although the team at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School continued their tradition of earning top honors at state, Head Coach Sandi Gildehaus said there wasn’t much else about this season that kept with tradition.

“This year was one for the books. Absolutely nothing was easy,” Gildehaus said. “I truly feel this year was 10 times harder to prepare and focus than any other we have had.”

The team also faced several quarantines that took members out, ever-changing game and practice schedules and the challenge of virtual learning outside of the gym. Gildehaus also noted the struggle of feeding off of an empty gym when filming their routine performance videos for regionals and state.

“For filming, we tried to invite as many fans and parents as we could,” she said. “With snow days prior to filming, we tried recording at every practice we had.” 

The group won other first place titles throughout the year, including at the Universal Cheerleaders Association Bootheel classic, which qualified the team to compete in UCA Nationals in April.

“Our seniors have worked overtime to motivate and push the team. Our team parents have done everything they can think of to give the girls some sense of normal,” Gildehaus said. “I hope we never have to deal with COVID-19 restrictions again.” 

 

Borgia Dance 

State Champions

Division 2 Overall

Like the cheerleading competition, this year the Missouri Dance Team Association’s statewide competition asked teams to record their routines and submit videos to be judged. The new setup provided a challenge, one the Borgia Starry Nights overcame to win first place in the pom and precision dance categories, which added up to first place overall in Division 2. Head Coach Meg Wunderlich and Assistant Coach Kayla Eckelkamp spent many practices recording videos, trying to capture the best possible performance.

“Submitting a video is very different than performing in person like they usually do at the state competition. Normally you only have one chance, but with a video you can record as many times as you want. This can be both a blessing and a curse,” Eckelkamp said. “The coaches were very proud of both of the videos we ended up submitting.”

The team also won first place precision dance and pom at invitationals in Farmington and Fort Zumwalt and at the virtual St. Charles Classic. 

“The girls really rose to the occasion and did their best under the unusual circumstances,” Eckelkamp said. “It was definitely a challenging year with the unexpected cancellations and quarantines, but the team did a great job looking for the positives and making the most of the in-person performances with a crowd.”

 

Washington Dance 

Fifth Overall in the State, Division 4

First Place in Division 4 Kick

The Washington Jaywalkers’ head Coach Jo Phinney said the team achieved its goal of making Top Five overall despite an uphill battle of several injuries, a dancer with post-COVID-19 health trauma and multiple snow days right before the routine video submission was due.

The team won first in kick and pom categories for their division at the virtual St. Charles Classic and placed second and fourth in those events at the in-person Fort Zumwalt North competition. After submitting their routine video, filmed by Brian Lock, to the state competition, the team had a watch party to view the video on the day they were supposed to have competed in-person, Feb. 27. 

“Making sure to get a good video was key in helping the team look good,” Phinney said. 

After COVID-19 cancellations delayed tryouts, the team had to learn their routines in groups to maintain social distancing. In October, the entire team was quarantined for two weeks, and several members had to quarantine throughout the season. One member had to get a doctor’s permission to dance following COVID-19, but Phinney said she was determined to dance. 

Pacific Dance

Third Place in Mix Dance, Division 2, and in Hip Hop, Division 3 

At Pacific High School, COVID-19 quarantines delayed the season, which normally starts in November, to January. As a result, the team had two fewer months to learn their choreography, and Head Coach Tonya Barnes felt like they were a month behind a normal year’s schedule. Once they did have the routines, which they practiced in masks, members would frequently be out due to quarantine and would miss changes or corrections. The video routine submission for state was also due two weeks before the competition date would have been.

“This year was extremely difficult for so many reasons,” Barnes said. 

The team recorded with fans present at a home basketball game. Per MODTA guidelines, the audience had to be completely silent during the recording, so the judges could hear the music. During the recording, which Barnes said was the only chance they had to film the state competition routines, two members were missing due to quarantine.

“COVID-19 and quarantines hit our team hard. Therefore, only missing two during virtual competing was a blessing,” Barnes said. “I am extremely pleased with our results.”

“This team has been resilient and pushed through a difficult year to achieve their goals,” Phinney said.