By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
SHAMOKIN — SHAMOKIN — Shamokin Area High School’s gymnasium on Saturday was filled with cheering fans, but their spirit was for the benefit of those who usually lead others in cheers.
“It’s all about us,” said Traci Ferguson, head coach of the Milton Area High School competitive cheerleading squad, which Saturday won its second consecutive District 4 title. “The people are yelling for us. Usually, we’re leading the cheers for the team.”
Squads from nine schools chanted, tumbled and stunted their hearts out during the District 4 competitive cheerleading championships, held for the second year since becoming a PIAA-santioned event.
Milton captured the small varsity title, with Southern Columbia finishing second and Hughesville third. All three qualify for the state championships in Hershey on Jan. 24 and 25.
“It’s great because ... you get to have that (championship) banner hanging in the gym,” Ferguson said. “The state of Pennsylvania now recognizes that we work just as hard as other teams do.”
Shamokin Athletic Director Rick Kashner also likes the fact that cheerleaders are now able to be recognized.
“It’s nice that they have a competition now,” he said. “They’re competing to win a district championship and possibly a state championship.”
Milton won the large varsity division last year. It competed in the small division with 15 girls on Saturday.
Other competing schools were, in small varsity, Canton, Hughesville, Sayre, Shamokin and Troy; in medium varsity, Jersey Shore; in co-ed varsity, North Penn, Jersey Shore and North Penn also took home titles Saturday and qualify for the state competition.
This was the second year Shamokin hosted the event.
“It’s great,” Kashner said. “We enjoy it.”
Ferguson said the Black Panthers’ squad is looking forward to the rest of its competition season and hopes to encourage more athletes from sports that benefit from cheerleaders to attend the championships.
“That’s my next goal,” she said.
Chris Venna, district chairman for the sport, said the energy in the gym Saturday was fantastic.
“All the teams did a nice job,” he said. “We’re very happy with it.”