GHSA cheerleading championship flips its way into Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ga. — This is the 18th year for Columbus to host the GHSA  state cheerleading championship. This year the competition celebrates its 25th anniversary and monumental changes for the world of cheer.

“To see the different skill levels go to where they are today, even from the safety standpoint as well, just rules and regulating everything. It’s been a great opportunity and honor to participate in it being a cheerleader, and now being on the other side being a judge,” says one of the competition judges Simone Smith.

“The sport of cheerleading has grown over the years, I think the stunts are much more difficult than what they were in the beginning years of cheerleading, and we’ve seen that change even in the 18 years we’ve hosted here at the Columbus Civic Center,” says Columbus Sports Council Executive Director Merri Sherman.

The council estimates the cheerleading championship will bring close to $2 million to the Columbus economy with thousands of visitors flooding local hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and gas stations.

GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines says he’s unsurprised the event ranks among the top sporting events to impact Columbus.

“Entire student bodies are going in to support the girls, ya know there’s just such great spirit and support as there is for our great football programs, baseball, basketball, and I believe cheerleading is right up there with them,” he says.

The girls from Northside High School were in the first group to compete for sectionals Friday morning. They tell News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton they hope people can come to see them for what they are — hard working athletes.

“People just saw us as cheering on the sidelines and not really doing anything, but cheer is a sport,” says Jasmine Sanders. “We do a lot, we get hurt just like football, basketball, all those other sports, so you just have to have strength — mental and physical — to be able to get through it.”

“[Competitions] like this lets people see cheer as something else other than just standing around with pom poms,” says fellow Northside cheerleader Logan Judah. “Once people watch you they really understand.”

Last December, the International Olympic Committee provisionally recognized competitive cheerleading as a sport for consideration in future Olympic games — a move that could mean vast strides for the sport’s recognition.

Northside cheer coach Jessica Smart says she hopes an Olympic spot for cheer would help out teams here in the Valley and those around the world.

“Here in Columbus, we don’t have middle school programs that compete anymore, at least not in public schools, and so our high school teams are starting to dwindle a little bit,” Smart says. “I think it would help a lot if the whole country or even the whole world, and if it’s an Olympic sport the whole world, to see that cheerleading is this competitive sport.”

Finals will continue Friday night and Saturday. Here is a schedule of events:

Friday, Nov. 10

  • Session One:  Doors open at 8:00 a.m.; Starts at 9:00 a.m.
    • Sectionals: AA, AAA,. AAAA
  • Session Two: Doors open at 1:00 p.m.; Starts at 2:00 p.m.
    • Sectionals: 5A, 6A, 7A
  • Session Three: Doors open at as soon as Session Two has been cleared; Starts at 7:00 p.m.
    • Finals: A and COED

Tickets: $12 per session

Saturday, Nov. 11

  • Session One: Doors open at 8:00 a.m.; Starts at 9:00 a.m.
    • Finals: AA, AAA, AAAA
  • Session Two: Doors open at 1:00 p.m.; Starts at 2:00 p.m.
    • Finals: 5A, 6A, 7A

Tickets: $12 per session

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