Youth squads post seasons worth cheering about

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

A pair of squads representing the Swannanoa Valley had a lot to cheer about after the 2018 seasons. 

The Owen Warhorse Youth Football and Cheer organization's Mites and Termite squads each earned trips to the WNC Youth Cheer Championship competition after strong showings in the East Division competition. 

From left to right: Co-captain Allie Padgett, coach Stephanie Snyder, captain Gabby Puckett, Malaysia Jeffries-Rice, Kenzie Robinson and coach Sherry Stillwell earned third place at the Eastern Division competition for the WNC Youth Cheer League in the Mites division. The Owen Termites earned a fourth place finish and a trip to the championship in Madison County on Oct. 7.

This year was a big year for the cheerleading program in the youth organization, according to Amber Puckett. 

"We had our largest year this year," said Puckett, who has been the cheer commissioner for the youth league for three seasons. "We had over 40 cheerleaders between three teams, which were Termites, Mites and Midgets."

The Termite division features children ages 8 and under, while the Mites squad is made up of kids who are 9 and 10. The Midget squad features cheerleaders who are 11 and 12 years old. 

The Owen Termites, who placed fourth in the Eastern Division competition on Sept. 30, perform on Oct. 7 at the WNC Cheer Championship at Madison High School.

On Sept. 30, Owen High School hosted the Eastern Division competition, which consists of teams from the Brevard, East Buncombe, Roberson, East Henderson, Hendersonville, West Hendersonville, North Henderson and Rutherfordton. 

"The competition is judged by out-of-state judges, who typically have either cheered or coached cheerleading in college," Puckett said. "How the teams place depends on how they are judged."

This year's Owen Termite squad was led by coaches Keila Treadway and Theresa Robinson. 

"These coaches work very hard with their teams all season," Puckett said. "They're at the field three nights every week for two hours per night and we have games every Saturday from August until the middle of October."

The Termites placed fourth in the Eastern Division competition, earning a spot in the championship in Madison County on Oct. 7. 

Leading the way for the Mites this season were coaches Stephanie Snyder and Sherry Stillwell. The pair coached their squad to a third place finish in the divisional round. 

"It was a very big deal for these teams to advance to the championship," Puckett said. "This is the first time, maybe ever, that we've had two teams place in this competition."

Squads were judged on the technical aspects of their performances and their ability to get the crowd involved. 

Their performances in the Eastern Division competition were a fitting end to a season in which the organization continued to grow. 

"We held our first cheer camp back in March, which is something that hadn't been done at least in the last several years," Puckett said. "We ended up with around 60 girls who attended camp that week just learn the basic fundamentals of cheerleading."

While both Owen squads fell short of placing in the championships, the season was a special one for both, according to Puckett.

"Watching these teams and the bond they have with one another has been heartwarming," she said. "These girls developed relationships and friendships that will last a lifetime."