The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 10, 2013

Southern cheerleaders have high hopes as well

By Harold Raker
The Daily Item

— CATAWISSA — On a muggy Friday night at Southern Columbia’s Tiger Stadium, the coach yells out instructions, just loud enough so the team can hear over the band, the public address announcer and the other sounds of the annual Homecoming game.

The team members listen intently as they want to turn in another good performance, one which eventually could lead them to a state championship.

This coach has not yet won a state title but she has been close enough to know what it feels like. Her husband stands 50 yards away and is running his own team through its pre-game activities.

The latter is also no stranger to state championships, having won six of them with his Tiger football teams.

His wife and her cheerleaders would love nothing better than to bring another state title to the school, and the family.

In the second year that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has sanctioned competition cheerleading as a sport, Southern cheerleading coach Kenda Roth, wife of football coach Jim Roth, has begun to prepare her own team of 15 cheerleaders to try to make a run in the post-season.

Kenda, who has been involved with cheerleading since she was on the squad at her alma mater, Shikellamy High School, selected 15 members of her Southern varsity squad for the school’s first-ever competition team.

The latter will take part in a few competitions beginning in early November to prepare for the second annual District 4 cheerleading championships to be held Jan. 11 at Shamokin High School.

Kenda did not enter a  team last year, the first year of the PIAA event, but she agreed to help Shamokin High principal Chris Venna, who is the district chairman for the new sport.

She also passed on entering Southern last year because she was still heavily involved in her own competition cheerleading program, TNT Magnum All-Stars.

She retired from that venture after last season and is now putting her efforts into making the new Southern cheerleading program a winning one.

Nina Benner, a senior captain, said the cheerleaders are just as intense in their efforts to make a run to  the state title in Hershey as are the football players.

“We want to move onto states, just like our Southern Columbia Tigers and we hope to win a state  title, just like the Southern Columbia Tigers,” she said.

“Everybody has been working hard and improving a lot.

But, like the football players, cheerleaders spend a lot of time honing their craft.

Benner said they practice every Monday after school at Sees’ Gym near Danville, and stay after the varsity practice on Thursday for competition practice.

“I am very busy, but I like it. I enjoy it. I’m glad to be on it, said Benner, who has cheered for 12 years, starting with the midget football program and is also a high school bowler for Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech.

Her high game is a 222 and she said she also hopes to make it to the state tournament in that sport.

Regan Roadarmel, whose father was a great running back at the school, is also a member of the squad.

She has been involved in competition cheerleading for 10 years and, after the gym in which she worked out closed, this gave her a chance to keep going.

“Having a competition team here at the school really allowed me to stay in what I love to do, so I was glad that happened here,” she said.

As for the high aspirations, Roadarmel said, “I think it would be nice to say that we have our own (state) title, so we have something to brag about around the school. Football is really big here and the boys can brag about all their state tiles, and all their district titles. It would be really nice for us to walk into school and say we have our own district title, and have something to be really proud of.”

Teammate Carisa Jones, a senior, who has cheered for eight years, four with the high school varsity, said that, because only 15 were chosen for the competition squad, “It’s a great honor. I’m so excited to do it, and it will be different from the regular cheerleading squad because it will have the competitive aspect, so it should be a lot of fun.”

The cheerleaders as well as their coach said the expect a large crowd of supporters, including members of the football team, for the district and, they hope, state competition.’

Jones said she also wants to share some of the same laurels as the gridders.

“It’s very important. We’ve always had a great football team and now it’s time to prove that we have a great cheerleading school as well,” said Jones, who is a competitive swimmer and diver who has competed in a cooperative program with Bloomsburg High in District 4 Class AA diving.

The reason only 15 were chosen for this first year, Kenda said, is that, although there are three divisions, based on the number of cheerleaders, she thought Southern’s best chance for success was in the smaller division.

“I felt that’s where we were going to be strongest with the kids. In our stunt group I felt that we had three strong flyers and I’m very competitive.

“I want to go out there and I want to do well. So I think we have a great opportunity to do well in districts. And, if we qualify out of there, then we head to Hershey in January (25th) and see what we can do there,” she said.

Husband, Jim, who is not only the head football coach, but the athletic director, was glad to see the PIAA sanction the sport.

He said by the PIAA becoming involved it gives girls a chance to cheer competitively for their school rather than with private clubs.

“(The parents) have to spend quite a bit of money for their kids to be involved in the programs. A lot of times with competitions, they will travel and those expenses will have to be paid by the families a lot of times. It’s a positive thing by the schools doing it for some of these kids,” he said.

“They can still go to private (facilities), just like in other sports, but it gives the kids another option, and, financially it might be a better option,” he added.

Kenda is happy that now some of the schools are hiring coaches, rather than advisors, for the cheerleading squads, and making sure to hire qualified people, both for the sake of competition and for safety. Kenda, who teaches at Lewisburg High, spent some time at Shikellamy as an athletic trainer.

Kenda knows that the odds are long, but she admitted thinking about the possibility of the Tigers winning state championships in both cheerleading and football in the same year.

“How neat would it be to be at our banquet and having both teams being presented with rings?” she said.

Kenda noted that over the years, when the football team has won, the cheerleaders also got rings.

But, she said “To say that you earned that yourself, that it was yours because you went out and won that title, I think that would be so exciting and (if the football team won too) probably unheard of in the state.”

As it might be for the football team, which is now tied with Class AAA Berwick for the most state titles.