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Sports Spotlight: Conley cheerleaders battle through COVID-19 to earn state title, trip back to UCA Nationals

Working through virtual training, virtual events, and positive cases Conley gets to nationals
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 9:26 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - D.H. Conley high school is the home of state champion cheerleaders. A group who has fought through pandemic protocols to compete for the title at the highest level in their sport. We feature them through a few of their leading seniors in this week’s Pepsi Sports Spotlight.

“It’s like a family. It’s like a sisterhood,” says D.H. Conley senior cheerleader Graceson Brinson, “We all fight, we all have our days, but at the end of the day we know we are a team. We want what is best for everybody on the team.”

A family, of mostly seniors, with a goal.

“We have 10 seniors on the team,” says Brinson, “We came together as a senior class that we wanted to go to UCA Nationals again this year.”

UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships.

“2020 we got to go, in February, right before the world shutdown,” says D.H. Conley head coach Stephanie McLean, “That was a sweet experience.”

This will be the second trip for many on the Conley team.

“The first year we went to UCA Nationals, we kind of went in blind,” says Brinson.

“We want to be super tight and have lots of spirit,” says D.H. Conley senior cheerleader Sierra Stox, “We know lots of teams that go every year have really good spirit so we are trying to work up on that.”

For two years the Vikings have worked to get back. COVID-19 has presented them problems both with protocols...

“We had virtual competitions last year and it just wasn’t the same,” says Brinson.

“We did a lot of stuff online,” says Stox, “Where we sent videos to one another showing cheers and then practicing.”

...and also impacted them personally.

“I got COVID twice,” says Brinson, “A lot of our team has gotten COVID.”

Despite it all this group won the state championship.

“They won the first North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship this year,” says McLean.

“That was probably the most unreal experiences I’ve ever felt,” says Brinson, “Like we weren’t expecting it.”

“So crazy. We were not prepared to get state champions or anything like that,” says Stox, “So when they said our names everyone was freaked out and so happy.”

Now all they can do is control what they can...

“Hit the best routine that we can,” says McLean, “We are looking for zero deductions and the least amount of mistakes as possible.”

... in the gameday division at Nationals...

“Just smiling the whole way through,” says Stox.

...next weekend.

“Put it all on the mat. We all do,” says Brinson, “That’s what makes this team so special we all just go out there and give 110% and we don’t slack.”

They head to Florida to compete a week from Thursday. Their prelim round is next Saturday Morning.

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