(Myrtle Beach, SC) – About three years ago, when Georgia Northwestern first began its cheerleading program, head coach Karen Stoker admittedly didn’t know too much about the sport on the collegiate level.
Today, she can add College National Championship Coach on her resume.
The Cheer Cats became the first team in the 10-year history of the athletic department of Georgia Northwestern to win a national title when they took home top honors of the collegiate division at the Eastern Cheer and Dance Nationals in Mrytle Beach, S.C. on Sunday.
“When we started the program, I didn’t know if we would ever be a competition squad,” she said on Sunday night. “I spent the first year just recruiting and trying to become knowledgeable about college cheerleading. I was just happy with the way we were supporting our teams, so when the kids (last year) wanted to try and earn a bid to nationals, I was just thrilled when they got one.”
Just 12 months later, Stoker will have a bright, shiny new national championship trophy to sell to potential recruits.
“For me personally, I’m tickled, but it’s really all about the kids and how important this is to them,” she continued. “Today was a good day and was a good feeling for all the kids to walk up on stage and get that national championship banner and trophy. I’m one content coach.”
Coming off a seventh-place showing in their division at the National Cheerleading Association nationals in Florida in April of 2015, the Cheer Cats had earned a return trip to NCA Nationals last summer through their performance at a cheer camp in Louisville, Ky.
But when the squad ended up losing some of its athletes to due to injury and other reasons and did not have enough athletes to compete in NCA, Stoker set out to find a new national competition for her squad.
“I found Eastern Cheer and Dance and it offered a good division for us where we didn’t have to compete against the larger Division I schools,” she explained.
Stoker said the squad scored high from the judges in the Game Day part of the routine and “expressed themselves really well as college cheerleaders.” The Cheer Cats ended with 439 points – 437.25 after a deduction – but still had a high enough score to take home the championship.
“Our pyramids and tosses were pretty strong,” she added. “We did well with jumps and tumbling and the judges said we had good crowd appeal. It wasn’t a perfect routine – we did have the one deduction – but the things we did, we did well.”
With the win, the Cheer Cats also earned a bid to the U.S. Finals, which Stoker compared to getting a bid to the Olympic Trials.
“It’s something we’ll be looking into,” she said. “I’m not sure if we’ll end up going or not, but it’s nice to open that (championship) packet and know we have that option.”
David Stephenson, the school’s Athletic Director and the person who helped bring Stoker in to start up the program at Georgia Northwestern, said the national championship was something that could only help the athletic department as a whole.
“When we started talking about having cheerleading a few years ago, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But having (the Cheer Cats) has brought a different dynamic to our whole athletic department. It’s another great recruiting tool. It helps to get the Bobcat brand out there and adding something of this prestige will only enhance it.
“Karen and her staff do a great job and always have so it’s nice to see it all culminate with this. I’m proud for all the kids and happy for her and her staff.”
Stoker said to end the year in this fashion was a thrill for both the cheerleaders coming back and the ones that will be leaving the program.
“For the four that will be leaving us – Selena Dupree, Virgil McCoy, Mayvit Sandoval and Codie Weldon (Shredder, the school’s Bobcat mascot) – it’s a great way to go out,” she said. “And for the ones coming back, it’s a great way to springboard into a new year. They are already making big plans for next year.”
Stoker also expressed her gratitude to Grant and Rachel Magness of Hot Shots in Rome for helping the team with its choreography.
Congrats to our own Ashley Farrell from Calhoun, Georgia. She was named the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for last week.
Ashley Farrell, a sophomore guard from Calhoun (Gordon Central HS), has been named the GCAA Division III Player of the Week for Dec. 2.
Farrell had 13 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal in a 61-46 home loss to the Bryan College junior varsity team on Nov. 23.
Now through December 4…
Please show a local child that angels are watching over them by picking up a card from the Angel Tree in the Student Activity Center. Each card has the name and information for a different child for you to help. The Stocking Full of Love is sponsored by the Walker County Sheriff’s Department. Please return unwrapped presents to Dione Waddington or Rhys Turner along with the card.
ANNUAL SOCK DRIVE
Now through December 15…
The WCC Student Leadership Council is partnering with the Chickamauga Active Living Center for their Annual Sock Drive for senior adults. Please drop off a new pair of socks in any of the drop boxes located in the 100/200 Building Breezeway, 500 Building Lower Foyer, or the 600 Building Lower Foyer.
Hot Cocoa For You: A Gift from the Student Leadership Council
Wednesday, December 2, 5—7 p.m.
Thursday, December 3, 10 a.m.—1 p.m.
Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate, hot tea, or apple cider in the Student Activity Center. *Wear your tackiest Christmas sweater to be entered into the drawing for a holiday gift basket! Compliments of your Student Leadership Council.
*All GNTC students, faculty, & staff wearing a tacky Christmas sweater will be entered into a drawing for a holiday gift basket!
*Sweaters should be in good taste; no profanity or vulgarity allowed.
November 23: Lady Bobcat Basketball vs. Bryan College, 5:30 p.m., R.A.C.
November 23: Bobcat Basketball vs. Bryan College, 7:30 p.m.
November 25: Student In-Service Day; No Classes.
November 26 & 27: GNTC Closed! Happy Thanksgiving.
December 2: Hot Chocolate Bar/Tacky Christmas Sweater Party, 5—7 p.m., S.A.C.
December 3: Hot Chocolate Bar/Tacky Christmas Sweater Party, 10 a.m. —1 p.m., S.A.C.
December 4: Angel Tree Donations Due.
Lafayette, Georgia to serve as host site
(Northwest Georgia) – One of the most anticipated local cheerleading events of the year will take place on Monday, Sept. 28 as Georgia Northwestern hosts its third annual Bobcat Cheer Extravaganza.
This year’s event will take place at LaFayette High School with performances and festivities beginning at 6 p.m.
Bobcats cheer coach Karen Stoker said another huge turnout is expected.
“Last year we ended up with about 425 athletes performing, which was more than double what we had the first year and we are expecting at least that many or more this year,” she said. “We know we have at least 14 schools that are going to represented, but we will probably have some more that sign up just before the deadline.”
Recreation cheer squads will compete for awards, as will middle school and high school spirit squads. Middle school, high school and all-star competition squads will perform exhibitions only.
The night will begin with a performance by the Georgia Northwestern Bobcat Cheer Cats. The Cheer Cats finished seventh in their division at the 2015 National Cheerleading Association (NCA) Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida in their first season as a competition squad. They have already qualified for the 2016 NCA Nationals following their performance at a camp at the University of Louisville.
Stoker said the performance was another good way for her squad to give back to the local cheerleading community.
“We just finished helping with the North Georgia Athletic Conference (middle school) with their competition cheerleading playday,” she explained. “They asked us to do it and the kids really enjoyed it.”
Admission will be $5 for adults. Concessions and cheerleading-specific vendors will also be on hand with items to purchase.
Stoker added that the main purpose of the night would be to allow cheer squads of all levels to showcase their talents.
“The mats will be theirs to show what they can do,” she said. “I’m looking forward to what I think will be another great night.”