Many people driving on Interstate 75 North from Macon to Atlanta on Tuesday saw a bus with "7A State Champions" circulating across the marquee.
That charter bus was filled with South Forsyth’s competition cheer squad, which returned from the Macon Centreplex with a state championship after beating region opponent Lambert, 105-104.
"They trusted the process as well as each other and put their heart on the mat,” South head coach Shayla Brawner said. “Proud is an understatement. As a coach, that is all I could ask for.”
Brawner said their winning routine was called ‘royalty,’ and the team referred to themselves as the ‘queens.’ Once they finished, Brawner knew the team had left everything out on the mat and had nothing left to prove.
Competition cheer all throughout Georgia was different this year.
The Georgia High School Association pushed the season back to winter because of COVID-19 constraints. This caused conflicts with cheer events outside of GHSA, and coaches had to work around that all season.
Brawner said her team formed a bond during a goat yoga team bonding session prior to the season start.
“The mindfulness instructor trained us to live in the present and be mindful of the moments each day, as they become our memories,” Brawner said. “The coaches reminded the girls to control what we were able to and be grateful for every opportunity that we had to do what we love — cheerleading.”
Once the team returned to Forsyth County lines, South Forsyth’s SRO Kurt Chambers escorted the bus back to the high school, where they were immediately recognized during halftime of the War Eagles first region playoff game.
Though eight seniors graduate at the end of the school year, Brawner said her junior class is ready to step up and compete for another title next year.
When Forsyth Central finished its co-ed routine, head coach Amanda Edwards said that she knew her team's routine was good enough for a first-place finish.
“I think we did perform at a first-place caliber,” Edwards said. “They were so clean and brought so much energy to the mat. It was their best performance of the season.”
Though it was good enough for first place, so were two other schools' performances, and a three-way tie scenario occurred for the first time in GHSA cheer history.
Edwards said the tiebreaker was every execution point throughout the routine added up, with execution meaning how well each judge thought the team performed their skills. Central finished in second place, just half a point behind Mill Creek.
“I am extremely proud of them,” Edwards said. “To go through the longest season ever, and on top of that over half them having double practices and competing with their all-star team, to making adjustments constantly because you never knew when someone would be quarantined ... they still came out with a score that tied them for first place in the state.”
Edwards said her nine seniors were great vocal leaders and will be big shoes to fill for next year’s run at a state title.