It's been a nice bounce-back season for the Morris competitive cheerleading team. After missing out on making the state cut last winter for the first time in nine seasons, the Redskins appear to be back in form.
Last weekend at the Mahomet Seymour Sectional, the locals won a sectional title for the second time ever, finishing with a team score of 87.97 in the Medium Division. That score was just ahead of La Salle-Peru's 86.53.
"I honestly didn't think we were going to win it," Morris senior captain Samantha Ehret admitted. "We were pretty sure we were going to qualify (for state) because we've had a strong routine all year, but we were pretty shocked all together that we won it."
The Redskins have been performing their current routine since September, and Morris coach Kristin Sanders said that the team has done a good job of maintaining its focus.
"Its the team goal from the beginning of the season is to get down to state and to do well at state," she said. "I think the seniors have done a good job of keeping the team focused while having fun at the same time. But it's been their mutual goal since day one."
In turn, that has translated into results when it counts.
"They do really well in front of an audience," she said. "Sometimes they get hard on themselves in practice, so it kind of makes practice rough at times. But when the pressure is on and there is excitement and energy out on the floor, they always do really well."
Even doing "really well" last Saturday at the sectional, the team still sees room for improvement.
"All together I was pretty happy," Ehret said. "It wasn't our best performance but it was one of the best. I think that at state were going to come out stronger and have an even better performance."
Morris will perform at 11:50 a.m. on Friday, and the goal is to simply put up the best effort of the season.
"Advancing to Saturday would be awesome. But, definitely if we hit a routine that we are all happy with in the end. That would be a success for us," Morris senior captain Sydney Christensen said. "I think that if we all come together and everyone does their individual parts we will be able to increase our scores."
The Redskins best performance at State came in 2009 when they finished 10th, which is a goal that this year's team has in mind.
"It's all about representing Morris. We try not to think about the other teams there and what they are doing. We want to focus on just our routine and hitting it the best we can," Ehret said. "We'd love to finish as high as any Morris team before. Anything top 10 and making it to Saturday I think we'd all enjoy. I don't think it gets better than being in the top 10 in the state."
"We would absolutely take 10th," Sanders confirmed.
This year's team is made up of seniors Christensen and Ehret; juniors Abbey Dergo, Carly Elleson, Morgan Hussey, Brittany Kinney, Jacqualine Murphy and Adilene Serna; sophomores Kelsey Hider, Megan McComb, Lacey Porak and Abby Sokolinski; and freshmen Tia Krause, Hannah Potter, Makayla Taylor and Anna Valentine.
Sanders is assisted by Ali Ergo.