Two years prior to 2021, the competition was an invitational, not a state championship, but since becoming a sanctioned event, several programs have stood out, capturing multiple state championships.
The defending champions are Buford (7A), South Effingham (5A-6A), Mary Persons (3A-4A) and Vidalia (A-2A). Vidalia has won back-to-back championships after Haralson County won the inaugural A-2A title. Mary Persons is also a two-time defending champion after Morgan County’s victory in 3A-4A in 2021. In 5A-6A, Lee County won the first two championships before South Effingham’s victory last season. In the highest class, North Gwinnett won championships in 2021 and 2022 before Buford’s championship victory last season.
“Last year, Buford won for the first time,” Mitchell said. “Mary Persons has won two years in a row and is always very, very good. Morgan County won the first year and they are always very good, also. West Laurens is very good.”
Game day cheerleading has grown exponentially since its inception as a sanctioned state championship two years ago and with that growth comes change, for the good.
“The divisions are a little different,” Mitchell said. “As we grow them, they may change next year, but right now A and 2A are in one division, 3A and 4A are in one, 5A-6A are in one and 7A.”
The event begins at 8 a.m. with the 3A-4A and 7A teams competing until 11 a.m. to determine the finalists. Then the 3A-4A and 7A finalists will return to the stage at noon and compete until 2 p.m. when the champions are crowned. Then after a break, Classes 5A-6A and 1A-2A will begin competition at 2:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. when the finalists are announced. The 5A-6A and 1A-2A finals will begin at 7 p.m. and the champions will be crowned at 9 p.m.
“Teams can bring the mascot and just do anything that will make you want to cheer for these teams,” Mitchell said.
During a team’s allotted time during the finals, they will be presented with situational challenges to determine how they will respond in the performance. For example, teams will be told their respective ‘football team’ is in a defensive situation and they will have to perform a defensive chant. Or that their ‘team’ is driving on offense and the squad will have to produce an offensive chant.
“Once in the finals, the situation cheer is added,” Mitchell said. “Like ‘The Bulldogs need to stop the Knights on 4th-and-goal. And the team will have to know to do a defensive cheer. Or there will be an offensive situation and the team will have to respond accordingly.”
Due to lack of participation, the GHSA removed the dance portion from the competition after Mill Creek and McIntosh shared the championship last season, with Mill Creek defending its 2022 title.