The Fern Creek High School gym erupted with cheers and tears of joy Feb. 22 as Southeast’s Special Olympics All-Stars cheerleading team won first place in the state championship competition.
In addition to winning first in their division, the All-Stars finished with the highest overall score, earning the grand champion title.
“We were so shocked and excited to win first place, we didn’t even hear the announcer say that we had won grand champion,” All-Stars cheerleading assistant coach Marcus Gibson said. “That was just icing on the cake.”
The win came after the All-Stars finished second at their regional competition in early February.
Gibson said that throughout the season, the team’s goal was to do their best and have fun.
As the team took the mat at the state competition with pom-poms in tow and glitter in full force, they didn’t lose sight of that goal.
Their performance at the state championship competition was the product of nearly six months of hard work, dedication and teamwork.
“It was our best performance of the year, and the Lord had His hand in every part of this season,” Gibson said. “Every girl on the team, every parent or caregiver who helped out, every coach used what God has given them to bring Him glory. I am super proud of our cheerleaders for their hard work, discipline and perseverance they displayed this season. They had a great attitude in everything we asked them to do, and they had a lot of courage to compete so well.”
This season, the All-Stars welcomed three new teammates. Gibson said the team grew as a family over the course of the season.
“It was really encouraging to see our veteran girls really take the new girls under their wings and step up as leaders,” Gibson said. “Our new girls had never really done anything like this before; this was out of their comfort zone. But they fit right in, worked hard and brought so much joy and energy to the team.”
After Christmas, the team was given the opportunity to practice at GymTyme, a competitive gymnastics and cheerleading club in Middletown. Over the last three years, the All-Stars have been able to build relationships with owners, coaches and athletes at GymTyme.
“We’re grateful for how much James and Misty at GymTyme have accommodated us,” Gibson said. “A lot of our girls have special transportation needs and other needs, and they’ve been really helpful in letting us practice in a competitive environment. We got to go in there each week and let our light shine, and once we were there, we were able to really focus and get our routine down.”
Gibson said his cheerleaders are putting together a thank-you card for the GymTyme staff.
The team of eight cheerleaders and six coaches held a prayer and devotion time after each practice. Gibson said the team continually prayed for one another.
“Throughout this season, we really focused on Colossians 3:17. ‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,’” Gibson said. “Our goal was to have fun and give God the glory.”