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Cheerleading: Denmark, Lambert win state championships
Longhorns' title is 6th since 2012; Danes' is first team championship in school history
Cheerleading
LEFT: Denmark's cheerleading team captured the school's first team championship Saturday when the Danes won the Class 4A title. RIGHT: Lambert won its sixth state championship in cheerleading Saturday, recording a perfect score to claim the Class 7A title. Photos courtesy Unforgettable Moments

Lindsey Needham knows her team won more than a state championship on Saturday.

Denmark's cheerleading squad captured the Class 4A title at the state meet in Columbus, becoming the first team in the school's two-year history to win a state championship.

But while Needham recognizes the win is a great achievement for the team, she can't help but reflect on what it means for the legacy of the school.

"I'm honored to be the first team to bring home a state championship," said Needham, Denmark's head coach. "I don't know, I just think it's really neat that it was a female sport to bring home the first state title, after the first individual title was a female in gymnastics, the school is named after a female physician, we have a female principal. I think that it's pretty incredible that females are laying the groundwork for the legacy of that school."

Of course, Denmark High School was named after Dr. Leila Denmark, a well-known pediatric physician in the community. The school's principal is Heather Gordy, and Sarah Wilson became the school's first state champion earlier this year at the state gymnastics meet when she won all-around. 

Denmark's cheerleading squad scored 92 points, which was five points ahead of second-place Cartersville. 

The Danes came out on top after finishing second last year to Cartersville, a four-time state champion.

"It's kind of overwhelming," Needham said. "We started last year without any expectations at all. I'd never coached in 4A, so I didn't know what I was going to be up against. Then, to go into state last year and come in second, and to lose by one point, that alone was a tremendous accomplishment for our program, since it was our first year."

While Denmark was making school history, Lambert was adding to its impressive legacy. 

The Longhorns dominated at the state meet, finishing with a perfect score to capture their second straight state championship and fourth in five years.

"I think we've built here at Lambert, not just in cheerleading, a winning tradition," Lambert head coach Brent Paige said. "I think teams from previous years push the new teams to bigger and better heights. They want to be just as successful as the teams that have come before them."

Lambert has now won six state championships in cheerleading, and the school owns 32 team state titles since opening in 2009.

Senior Caroline Harris competed on three of those teams and has been a fixture on Lambert's squad since her freshman year.

"It's incredible," she said. "I can't think of a better way to end my senior year, with any other group of girls. After four years of doing it, it's the best way to top it off."

Lambert finished just a point and a half in front of South Forsyth and three points ahead of third-place North Forsyth. 

"We knew it was going to be close. They're an incredible team," Harris said of South. "But hearing that it was a point and a half, and that we also got a perfect score, it's an unreal feeling. All of the months leading up to it, all of the tears, the sweat and everything you've done paid off."

West Forsyth finished 10th in Class 7A, while Pinecrest Academy placed eighth in the Class 1A Private meet on Friday. 

The two state championships bring Forsyth County's tally to 14 cheerleading titles, with South accounting for half of that number.

"I think Forsyth County as a whole definitely has some of the best cheerleading athletes in the state of Georgia," Paige said. "So, I think girls when they're in middle school, they watch the teams where they're going to go to high school and dream of being on the varsity team and have the opportunity that they do. A lot of these girls also cheer outside of high school season in all-stars. The talent in the county pushes each other to be bigger and better every year."

South won four straight state championships from 1996-99 and snapped Lambert's streak in 2017.

"We pulled from them," Needham said, "so anybody in the cheer community knowing that Denmark branched off of South, I think kind of expected us to have a strong cheerleading program. I did my best to internalize that and not project that onto the kids."

Denmark met those expectations this year, and Needham will remember the amount of support that surrounded the team.

"If I had to take a snapshot, I would remember all of our administrators standing up and cheering for us, how incredible the fans were, how our cheerleaders' faces lit up when they finished a routine and how everybody pulled together," Needham said.

Harris won't forget the sweat-soaked practices over the summer while her classmates were enjoying the sun.

Harris, now a state champion, admits they were worth it.

"We were practicing in the gym. It's kind of frustrating, because you're here stuck while everyone is at the beach," Harris said. "At this point, looking back at it, I wouldn't have wanted to spend my break any differently."