Shayla Brawner was still regaining her voice and shaking off the ringing in her ears on Monday, the after-effects of an otherwise joyous weekend for the South Forsyth cheerleading head coach. The War Eagles won the Class 7A state title that day, the seventh title in the program’s history and its first since 2003.
“It’s just an honor,” Brawner said, “and an awesome reward for these girls to experience the hard work they put in all year paying off.”
The state competition, which took place on Friday and Saturday in Columbus, was effectively a showcase for the Forsyth County cheerleading scene. South took first place and had the overall highest score in the competition, but Lambert finished second, West Forsyth was third and North Forsyth was sixth, and Forsyth Central finished second in the co-ed division.
South had come close to reclaiming a state title the past two years, finishing as runner-up in Class 6A in 2015 and again last year, in the first year of Class 7A competition, but the team wasn’t using those past results as motivation. It also didn’t have its in-county rivals in mind during the competition: The War Eagles didn’t watch their routines, and the scores weren’t announced until everyone had gone.
“We had a very difficult routine that the girls executed flawlessly,” Brawner said. “But most important to me, it was obvious that they were having fun and performing their routine. It was obvious that they loved what they were doing.”
It was a satisfying culmination to what was a season Brawner said was “unlike any other” that she’d been through. The War Eagles repeatedly had illness and injuries affect their makeup – one athlete even missed a competition due to a cornea tear – and didn’t feel that everything fully came together until their first-place finish at the Fall Classic Invitation at Woodstock High School on Oct. 30.
“This team came a long way in terms of mental toughness, and they never gave up,” Brawner said. “They truly encouraged one another … Their resiliency and encouragement of one another was really inspiring.”
Along with the team’s title, War Eagles senior Madi Brock was named Cheerleader of the Year by the Georgia Cheerleading Coaches Association, and West’s Channing Bridges was first runner-up for the award. Both athletes received scholarship awards.