Story by: Malik Brazile, Josh German and Trey Martin

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After winning the state championship in 2014, the Dutch Fork cheerleading team is working hard to defend their title. The cheerleading season is in full swing, and the team is determined to live up to the expectations and their goals of winning another state title.

“It’s definitely a bunch of pressure on us to be as good as we were last year, but it only makes us want to be better and it’s a constant reminder of what we can be,” junior Aimee Goley said.

Winning consecutive state titles isn’t an easy thing to do, and the team knows they have to work to get back to the top.

“Every day our coach tells us that we have the possibility of winning state again so we all put in the effort so we can go out there and defend the title,” senior Jaylaan Bennett said.

The bond between teammates is one of the reasons why the team has found success.

“Being friends with the upperclassmen not only helped me become a better cheerleader, but they also help me through life in general. It’s cool because they always give great advice and know exactly what to say if you need anything,” freshman Morgan Wilkinson said. “It’s like having a bunch of older sisters that are always willing to help and make you the best person you can be.”

Working as a team is one of the main things that allows the group to succeed in their competitions.

“The chemistry [between the team] is great. We’re like sisters and I think that helps our performance a lot,” sophomore Kara Wheeler said.

Head coach Katie Nunnery is looking for the team to use this unique bond of friendship to reach higher levels and achieve their ultimate goal of defending the state title.

“I think this year the chemistry is really good. Every year you have different personalities, and that can either help or hurt the team, but if that team has the best bond but not the best talent, they can work hard to be successful,” Nunnery said.

Midway through the season, Nunnery is excited to see where this year’s team can go.

“This year we have the most tumbling we’ve had in past years. This year, probably as a whole, it’s the most talented team to come through Dutch Fork. They have good drive, good heart, and they work really hard,” Nunnery said.

In order to reach the goals the team sets for themselves, the girls put in extra time to gain an edge over the other teams they compete against.

“We practiced every day during the summer and we ran a mile. We did ten stadiums each day. We didn’t have practice in July to get our skills up for competitions” Jaylaan said.

What is seen at football games and in competitions reflects the hard work that went into preparing for this season.

“For starters, we went to camp in Myrtle Beach. We had two-a-day practices, and then we lifted weights. We run, and then we take two tumbling classes.” Nunnery said.

Although she is a junior, Aimee has undertaken the challenge of being one of the captains for the team.

“Being a captain is a huge responsibility. It’s not just about the title. It takes a lot to lead a team and it’s definitely a challenge, but it feels so good at the end of the day whenever my team does amazing because I know that my co-captains and I lead them to be that amazing.” Aimee said.

While the girls are hunting for back-to-back state championships, the team is also trying to make the most of the time they have together.

“The closer we get to each other the better we perform,” Morgan said. “It’s always great to go to practice and know that you have a team full of girls that can easily brighten your day.”