No. 2 Tries Harder
Butler competitive cheer squad overcomes sudden injury, places 2nd at PIAA tourney
Members of the Butler High School competitive cheer team — which took second place in the coed division at the PIAA Spirit Championships over the weekend — include, from left, first row, Emma Herold, Natalie Marburger, Mykaela Lipscomb, Sydney Mylan, Angela Haley and Peryton Holt; second row, coach Kylie Thoma, Brynne Shay, Kendell Atkinson, Emma Rihn, Nadia Hindman, Emma Stewart, Aleena Hutchens, Keith Young and coach Marianne Miller; third row, coach Kristin Karam, Anna Munko, Madison Wheeler, Mylee Tate, Bella Shook, Mya Slomers, Jenna Birckbichler, Lillie Hans and Jersey Kiely.
HERSHEY — Half a point.
That was the only thing denying Butler's co-ed competitive cheer team from repeating as state champion at the eighth annual PIAA Competitive Spirit Championships Friday and Saturday at the GIANT Center.
Downingtown West captured the title in the 16-team co-ed division with a score of 91.0 in the finals. Butler tallied 90.60.
But the journey was well worth the second-place trophy for the Golden Tornado.
“To go from a preliminary disaster to within half a point of winning the state championship again ... That was insane,” Butler coach Marianne Miller said.
The “disaster” occurred when sophomore base Mya Slomers broke her hand during warm-ups, just 20 minutes before Butler was scheduled to take the stage for its preliminary performance.
“This isn't like football or basketball, where you send someone else in to take that spot,” Miller said. “We didn't have another base. We had to restructure our routine.
“(Event officials) moved us back in terms of the preliminary schedule to give us time to do that. We had maybe an hour.”
Butler's six seniors — Emma Herold, Natalie Marburger, Mykaela Lipscomb, Sydney Mylan, Angela Haley and Peyton Holt — serve as leaders of the 21-member unit. Butler does not designate team captains.
“After Mya got hurt, one of the freshmen walked over and asked me what was gonna happen,” Haley said. “Sometimes things get thrown at you. I told her we just had to stick together and see it through.
“We were shocked. Nobody knew what to say. We went back upstairs and went to work. None of us said anything. We just let the coaches figure it out and did what they told us to do.”
The team lost a stunt group and had to readjust its cheer portion of the performance.
“We practiced in a hallway. It was difficult,” Haley said.
During its preliminary performance, Butler lost nine points to penalty deductions, but qualified for the semifinals. It marked the first time the Tornado did not advance from the prelims straight to the finals in the PIAA event.
“But we were still in it. And we had time to work on the adjusted routine some more,” Miller said.
Butler had to win the semifinal round to advance to the finals. The Tornado did so easily, generating a score of 86.37 to win by a 12-point margin — and losing only two points to penalty deductions.
“It was different, having to go through the semifinals, but we've had to do that at nationals,” Marburger said. “We were used to it that way.
“We did much better in the semifinals. That gave us a lot of confidence going into the finals.”
Only five teams reach the finals in the co-ed division. Downingtown West and Butler stood out in the final round as McDowell, New Oxford and Red Lion scored 83.65, 73.97 and 70.60, respectively.
Butler had no penalty deductions in the final round and was the only team to pull that off.
“All we want to do out there — at any competition — is hit our routine,” Miller said. “The scoring, the judging, is subjective. That's why we focus on us.
“Our team overcame adversity. This was a test of character, a test of our dedication and heart toward the sport, and belief in each other.”
“After our performance in the finals, I was speechless,” Marburger said. “I am so proud of this team. We stuck together and got it done.”
Juniors on the squad are Brynne Shay, Kendell Atkinson, Emma Rihn, Nadia Hindman, Emma Stewart, Aleena Hutchens and Keith Young, the lone male on the team.
Sophomores are Mylee Tate, Bella Shook, Slomers, Jenna Birckbichler and Lillie Hans. Freshmen are Anna Munko, Madison Wheeler and Jersey Kiely.
Kylie Thoma and Kristin Karam join Miller as coaches.
“It was an insane feeling, being part of what we've done,” Haley said of the weekend competition. We bonded so much. That whole experience is only going to make us stronger.”
Moniteau finished 13th out of the 16 teams to make the finals in the small-team division.
Butler and Moniteau will compete in the UCA National Championships in early February.