ST. CHARLES — They’ve been here before, but the feeling never gets old.
For the 11th straight year, athletes on the Liberty High School varsity cheer squad are state champions. The team took the top spot in the Class 5 Large varsity division Nov. 17 at Lindenwood University in St. Charles.
“It was just a lot of shock. It was a real rewarding feeling from all the hard work we’d put in throughout the season for it to all pay off,” said Carrington Kudrna, one of the 26-member squad’s three seniors.
While knowing what it’s like to be a state champion both years she has been on the team, senior Fatima Curiel said the accomplishment is never expected.
“I felt very accomplished and was very proud of every girl on the team. We all worked really hard to be at the place that we were. We got rewarded the way we wanted to, but it didn’t just come to us, we had to fight for it,” she said. “That makes it 10 times better.”
The squad’s other senior, Mary Barnes, said going into their last year on the team, the seniors knew they wanted to have fun, but never took their eye off the prize and practiced as hard as possible because they did not want to be the ones that ended the squad’s winning streak.
“I think we all had the mindset of knowing this was going to be a fun year because it always is, but we knew we would have to work for it and that it wasn’t going to be easy. In the end, we knew that doing all of that was going to help us to get to where were because there was a lot of pressure on us. It made it more rewarding,” she said.
“It was an awesome way to end our cheer careers,” said Curiel.
Head cheer coach Brenda Moats said the girls never take it for granted that they are state champions year after year.
“The nervousness, the stress, it never gets easier. Nobody wants to be that group that doesn’t get that state title. That puts a lot of pressure on the kids, but every single one of them works really hard,” she said. “... We start in April every year and our season goes until March through basketball so this is a hard-earned title.”
As the only senior to be on the squad all four years of her high school career, Kudrna said being led by others previously and then getting to take on that role was also rewarding.
“It was fun and really exciting to just to get to lead your team to that victory,” she said of state.
Moats, in her 17th year as cheer coach, said state competition this year was also special because her team has four sets of siblings where the older siblings, now in college, cheered for her previously and came back to cheer on their young siblings.
“It made it a lot of fun to watch them cheer them on,” she said, adding the girls on her team are also school role models who carry themselves well, do well academically and are responsible leaders.
“I’m proud of them on and off the mat,” she said.
In addition to having hardworking girls on her squad, Moats said she is lucky to have a group of supportive families and support from Athletic Director Jason Cahill.
“He is so supportive of our program and is willing to do whatever he can to help us out,” she said.
In addition to thanking each of their team members, the seniors give credit to Cahill for his support that included new uniforms. The girls give special thanks to the squad’s coaches, who they said teach them about more than cheerleading.
“They don’t only teach us cheer, they teach us life lessons about how to be young women that are getting ready to go into the world. They just make us brave and strong so that we can continue. They teach us stuff that will forever live on with us,” said Curiel.