WEST SUNBURY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Stacy Fox’s biggest task this season in her return as competitive spirit coach at A-C Valley was getting her cheerleaders to believe.
In each other.
“I’ve been preaching to them since I took the program over in the summer, ‘You have ability. Believe in yourself. I’m here to help,’” Fox said.
The 16 members of the cheer squad at A-C Valley certainly believe in themselves now.
The Falcons won the District 9 Co-Ed Division championship Saturday at Moniteau High School and will move on to the state competition later this month.
A-C Valley had won three district titles previously, but none since 2018.
Fox had left the program she had helped build with Jacqui Shook, but returned this year when the team didn’t have a coach.
It was like she had never left.
Fox examined the other teams in the area and decided the best course for the Falcons at the district championships would be to become a co-ed team.
“I said to them, ‘Girls, I think that our best chance to win is to go in the Co-Ed Division,’” Fox said. “We didn’t have any boys at that point.”
The recruiting began.
An announcement was read at school. The first boy to step up was Damon Weaver, who was interested immediately and joined the team. A-C Valley picked up a second boy, football player Andrew Verostek, after some deliberation.
“He was like, ‘Well, I don’t know about this,’” Fox said. “He tried it out and he’s excelling at it. I’m very thankful for the boys who are on the team.”
Verostek is a talented athletes and he told Fox he could do a standing tuck.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, right, whatever,’” Fox said, chuckling. “And he did it the first night at practice. I was like, ‘All right. That’s something to work with.’”
At the competition Saturday, A-C Valley did a two minute, 30 second routine that is graded in several categories: cheer, partner stunts, tumbling, jumps, dance and pyramid.
Fox said the routine had a few rough edges, but it was good enough for the Falcons to edge second-place DuBois, 78.5-73.7 for the title.
“I told them, ‘There are a lot of other sports that have four quarters. We don’t have that. We have two minutes and 30 seconds,’” Fox said. “‘You have to sell the routine at the beginning and sell it at the end and you make everything in between work.’ That’s what my kids did.
“We weren’t mistake-free — we have some improvements that we can make,” Fox added, “but they did what I asked them to do today.”
Members of the team are: Rylee Bowser, Malia Conner, Adison Painter, Andrew Verostek, Damon Weaver, Alexa Heeter, Chloe Myers, Lily Whitling, Dani Farkas, Madison Hurrelbrink, Hannah Ithen, Sophia McGarvey, Kyleigh Morrison, Payton Duffee, Sami Whitling and Baylie Wingard.
A-C Valley will have several weeks to prepare for the PIAA Competitive Spirit Championships, which will be held Jan. 29 in Hershey.
“I would love to see my kids make it to the semifinals or finals,” Fox said.
No matter what happens in Hershey, Fox is thrilled with what her team accomplished at Moniteau High School Saturday.
“I love these kids,” Fox said. “They practice their hearts out for me. They do whatever I ask them to do with no complaints. Today they really made me proud of them.”
Meanwhile, Moniteau kept its stranglehold on the district in the Small Team Division, winning the championship for the fourth consecutive year.
The Warriors edged St. Marys, 78.3-73.6, to win another title.
Members of the team are: Victoria DeMatteis, Lexi Lasichak, Kylee Surrena, Shayla Nagy, Ashlyn Baptiste, Molly Grossman, Riley Long, Sammie Smith, Kelsey Stewart, Tori Burdick, Bella Hernandez and Alyssa McFadden.
Elk County Catholic piled up 82.5 points to beat second-place Karns City (68.4).
HEADING TO STATE
In addition to A-C Valley, Moniteau and Elk County Catholic, teams from St. Marys, DuBois, Karns City and Johnsonburg will also compete in the PIAA Competitive Spirit Championship later this month.