Northside cheerleaders headed to nationals

Published 8:46 pm Monday, January 29, 2018

PINETOWN — Last weekend, Northside’s cheerleaders had to do more than just nail their routine. The Lady Panthers banded together after one of their own lost her father the week before the competition.

That forced some changes to the routine. There were changes made the night before. Emotions were running high, making rehearsals a bit tough to get through. Once they took the stage, though, something clicked.

Northside knocked the performance out of the park. The squad placed first, earned an award of excellence and a bid to the national competition “The One,” which will be held in Virginia Beach in April.

“We went out there. For a lot of them, it was their first time competing,” coach Kimberly Smith said. “They had fun, and that’s all that matters, but they killed it. … I don’t really know what I expected. A lot of them were falling apart in warm-ups. There were a lot of tears and a lot of nerves.”

Smith believes the Lady Panthers dedicating the performance to Sarah Cleary and her late father was what pushed them to their championship.

“They went out there with a smile on their face. They honored Sarah with the whole routine,” Smith said. “It worked. They’re strong girls. They’ve worked hard this year and come a long way.”

Smith said she’s also come a long way this school year. This is her first season as coach of the Lady Panthers’ cheerleaders. There have been highs and lows, as expected, but the payoff last weekend was worth it.

“It’s been hard. There have been a lot of challenges and moments where I didn’t know what I signed up for,” she said. “Now, with the girls we have, they make it easy. They’re a lot of fun. They’re like sisters, and we’re like a family. I love coming and being with them.”

Now Northside sets its sights on “The One.” There’s a lot to accomplish between now and April 7. The group is already getting started with fundraisers. Barbecue plates will be sold at the Wilkinson Center in Belhaven from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Feb. 16. Then, on March 24, the team will set up across Beaufort County to sell Krispy Kreme doughnuts by the dozen.

The Lady Panthers are also pursuing business sponsors. Their minimum goal is $5,000.

Then, of course, Smith anticipates a more difficult routine. Work has already begun on that.