By Lily DeBlasio
Pictured above: Hammond Varsity Cheer at the state championship competition
Hammond Cheerleading just wrapped up the winter season after an incredible few months of perseverance and impressive accomplishments. The winter cheer season began in November, with the start of winter sports, giving the team around 2 months to prepare for their county competition in January. The winter season came with its challenges though; the loss of girls, less practice space, inflexible schedules, and a COVID-19 outbreak.
Like the fall season, the team fell victim to the several other indoor sports that needed practice space in the school. Between having to yield to other sports practices and county regulations suspending most athletics, there was very little time for the team to be able to practice safely. Despite their underdog status and external hardships, the girls pulled through in their performances.
Due to the start of competition season for girls on all-star teams outside of school and other spring sports starting, Hammond Cheer had to compensate for the loss of a lot of girls. Because of this, head varsity coach, Katie Charnok, thought it best to reduce the size of girls competing, resulting in the nine girls who “made mat.”
Choreographing their routine proved difficult at first, as there were simply not enough girls to be able to showcase all of their skills safely. Despite the small size of the team, Coach Katie’s years of experience and talent allowed her to develop a routine that was unique, interesting, and filled with impressive skills.
One thing that led the girls to success is the introduction of new choreography from Sugene Shin, the previous head coach of Marriotts Ridge Varsity Cheer. Sugene led Marriotts Ridge to many county, regional, and state championships before resigning as coach in late January of this year. Sugene came to a Hammond practice, as a friend of Coach Katie, to help choreograph the pyramid and partner stunt that would help the team stand out at competitions.
The cheerleading county championship was held on February 7, 2022, where the team would perform their winter routine in front of an audience for the first time this season. Despite the immense effort showcased by the girls, they did not perform perfectly, receiving deductions on their routine and scoring a 99.9. That night, the team did not place, leading most to suspect it was the end of this year’s competition season. When the placements for the entire competition were revealed, the team was shocked. Hammond scored in the top 6 teams, meaning they earned a spot at regionals.
Regionals was held at Harford Community College, on February 11, 2022, giving the team just two days of practice to refine their performance. In most past seasons, the team didn’t make it past regionals. While they obviously wanted to advance, most of the team had tried to not set their hopes too high. The other teams at regionals had more athletes, more elite stunts, and were overall able to do many skills that aren’t legal with only 9 girls. When the girls performed, they did better than their previous competition but still did not manage to receive zero deductions. Despite the imperfections, they scored 106.4 and shocked the audience when they placed 6th in their 2A division, filling the last spot for the state championship.
Hammond cheerleading had not been to states in many years, making this moment even more special for the majority of seniors that made up the team. Because of this once in a lifetime experience, the team wanted to make sure they had fun and enjoyed themselves as the seniors competed for the last time. The championship was at Harford Community College again, where the team participated in the friendly competition environment, joining the large-scale dance parties that took over the arena and cheering on the other teams. This performance was the best of the season, having all stunts and body positions hit. The team didn’t place in the top three of their division, the placement needed to receive an award, but ended up scoring higher than Glenelg cheerleading, an impressive feat on its own.
The winter cheer season proved to be one of the most exciting and successful ones in a long time, wrapping up as the team cheered at the last couple varsity basketball games. Between the dedication and hard work of the coaches and girls, they succeeded in proving what they are capable of as athletes and teammates in the uncertainty of this strange season.