By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — McAlester’s cheerleading squad finished 13th among 18 5A schools at Saturday’s Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association Cheerleading State Championship at Gallagher-Iba arena at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. The Lady Buffs scored 213 points, improving on last year’s score by three points.
The Lady Buffs also finished 10 spots higher than they did in 2012. This came despite what Lady Buffs coach Ashlee Shumway called “major changes” to their routine after Regionals on Sept. 21.
“I completely re-did the pyramid,” Shumway said Tuesday. “We did a brand new pyramid, and it hit really, really solid. I also added some more difficult tumbling skills to the very beginning of the routine, just for that ‘wow factor,’ and that made a big impression, and then adding some spins in our stunts. So I was proud, after having made all those big changes, that they still hit.
“We’re to the point where we’re getting the skills that we need to perform in the top four. It’s just going to be now about polishing.”
Shumway credited the team’s success in part to her three seniors: captain Sarah White, top girl Madison Taylor and base Taylor Burmeier. Those seniors set the tone and brought the underclassmen in line, Shumway said, and because many of the 2013-14 Lady Buffs competed at State last year, they came into it this year better equipped.
“We talk a lot about practicing to practice and practicing to perform,” Shumway said. “There’s a big difference in going out and doing that routine over and over and over in a gym when no one’s watching, and then going out in the Gallagher-Iba Arena, when you have thousands of eyes on you.”
Carl Albert won 5A for the 11th time since 1998, averaging 95.4 points from each judge. McAlester, by comparison, averaged 71 points.
Shumway said that while her Lady Buffs executed their stunts, they couldn’t quite match Carl Albert’s energy.
“Any time you get a little bit out of your element, it makes it tough to get those girls (energized),” Shumway said. “We had all day, we didn’t compete until 5, and we’d stayed up really late after (Friday’s football) game.”
Though Shumway had just one senior last year and three this year, next year she should have at least six seniors with varsity experience, plus several junior varsity cheerleaders that could make the team. With so much experience, the Lady Buffs could place even higher at State next year, possibly returning to the top-four team they were when Shumway graduated from McAlester in 2002.
“We actually tied for third my senior year, and I think my senior year and the year after we placed in the top four,” Shumway said.
“We’re building up a little bit better, a little bit stronger every single year. I’ve tried to make a few changes to the program to really increase our strength during the summer, and we’ve kind of been waiting on these kids that are coming up who are just incredibly talented. We think we’ll definitely be contenders next year.”
McAlester’s competitive cheerleading season has ended for at least 2013, though Shumway said the Lady Buffs may go to an Oklahoma Cheerleading Coaches Association competition in January. The end of State means the Lady Buffs can concentrate on performing Friday nights and promoting school spirit, which Shumway said has always been the team’s priority.
“Competition season is always so stressful for us, just because we feel like we’re being pulled in a few different directions,” Shumway said. "We’re having to make sure we’re ready for pep assemblies, and we’re ready for games, and we’re still doing our community service stuff, and we have people calling us every day asking us to make appearances our volunteer our time.
"We’re still going to have to perform at games, but it’s more fun. It gives the kids more of an opportunity to kind of add to whatever performances that we do. They get to have a little more say in our choreography.”
The Lady Buffs’ next big project is Pink Out Week, a cancer awareness week and fundraiser that will run during Fall Break. Shumway will run a Little Buffs Cheer Camp on Oct. 14, and the Little Buffs will cheer with the varsity, JV and junior high squads at the Oct. 17 football game against Durant at Hook Eales Stadium.
The Lady Buffs will also be selling Pink Out T-shirts. Those interested in purchasing shirts or enrolling their children in Little Buffs Cheer Camp can get the necessary forms at Miller Office Equipment, located at 900 E. Wyandotte Ave., or at the McAlester Athletics office at Bob Brumley Gymnasium, located at 301 E. Adams Ave.
Shumway’s three seniors will also be up for Homecoming Queen, which will be awarded Friday before the Buffs’ home game against Shawnee. The Buffs have planned a “blackout” theme for the game, encouraging fans to wear black clothing to the game, and Shumway said her cheerleaders will spend the week helping to promote the game.
Come Friday, Shumway said, the Lady Buffs will wear their black uniforms.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com