Most teams who qualify for the GHSA Cheerleading State Championships at the Columbus Civic Center book a hotel for the event. Forsyth Central didn’t. Head coach Amanda Edwards took the team to her family’s near-by lake house, and that’s where the Bulldogs were Friday morning before their co-ed competition.
The team ate bagels for breakfast, and parents brought them lunch. They watched a movie (2006’s She’s The Man). Then they watched a highlight video a school parent made of their season up that point, set to the song “I Like To Win” by Christian hip hop artist Shonlock.
The team watched it three times.
“It kind of set the tone for the day,” Edwards said.
Central came painstakingly close to fulfilling the song’s title, finishing second to Milton by one point, 105-104, this past Friday. It was Central’s best finish ever and continued the program’s climb during Edwards’ tenure from 10th in 2014 to fifth in 2015 and fourth last season.
“I think I was in shock, in a good way,” Edwards said. “I don’t like to rank us. Whatever we get, we’re going to get excited about it. When they called us for second, I was pumped.”
Edwards had high expectations for the team entering the day. Eleven of the team’s 19 competitors were seniors, and they provided the requisite leadership starting back in March. Over the course of the season, the Bulldogs had emerged alongside Mill Creek and Milton as the top competitors in the co-ed division. Winning a state title was very much a possibility.
Central was the 10th co-ed team to compete, and as Edwards watched the team’s routine she identified only a few minor bumps. Nothing severe enough to crush the Bulldogs’ chances. Milton went next, and the Eagles had their own hiccups. Edwards figured it would be a judgment call between the teams. The judges picked Milton.
“I felt it was the most energetic, enthusiastic I’ve ever seen them,” Edwards said. “… Overall, I was very proud.”
Regardless, Edwards felt gratified for the large group of seniors who were freshmen when the team placed 10th at state. The program took off from there, elevating its standing in the state and at Central. More and more talented cheerleaders joined the program. Three made cheerleading teams at Birmingham-Southern, Louisville and West Georgia last season.
Edwards could already feel the affects of Friday’s result.
“Even today, people are coming up and saying, ‘I want to be a part of this program,’” Edwards said.