A relatively new school to the Henry County, Ola High School has already started to create a legacy for itself — beginning with a state title win for its co-ed cheerleading squad.
The team has 17 cheerleaders, four of which are boys.
Stacey Schmuhl has been the coach for the team since the school opened in 2007.
“We have always been a top 10 team since we opened,” she said. “We finished state runner ups in 2009 and 2011.”
With several close calls, Schmuhl continued with the same formula used in past years — continuous practice and rigorous training.
“We start practicing as soon as school is out and attend our skills and choreography camps the first weeks of summer,” she said. “We then practice three days a week for three hours each of those days in order to perfect those skills and work on hitting our routine.”
The summer workouts and conditioning were only a prequel to what was to come during the school year.
“Once school started, we practiced Monday through Friday,” Schmuhl said. “It takes a huge commitment from these kids and many people outside cheer would have no idea how many hours of practice these kids put in.”
It took as many as five months to perfect a two and a half minute cheerleading routine, often including jumps, tumbling, stunts, dance and cheer.
All these different aspects have to be executed on both an individual basis for each team member and with cohesion as a sum.
Doing so is not an easy feat.
“It takes a great deal of time and practice to make those things happen and to make it look easy like they do,” Schmuhl said.
But somehow, amidst the long practices and former failed attempts at making the number one spot, the Ola cheer squad made it as the cream of the crop.
The feeling was an emotional one, for both Schmuhl and her team alike.
“When they called us as state champions, our huddle exploded and there was just a lot of hugging and crying and chaos,” she said. “They actually had to come get us to collect our trophy.”
Hope Gandee, one of the seniors on the squad, said the win was the icing on the cake for her senior year.
“Unforgettable experience,” she said. “Everything I’ve worked for. It feels nice to end my cheerleading career with a state championship.”
Anslee Wilson, a junior, agreed.
“It wasn’t only a dream come true, but a memory that will last forever,” she said.
Ola High School is at 357 North Ola Road in McDonough.