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State champs

STATE CHAMPS: Clinton Central cheerleaders who won a state championship at Saturday’s Indiana Cheer Championship in New Castle included, front from left, Kelcy Jarrell, Morgan Smith, Shea Bolinger, Kayla Merriman and Morgan McWhirt; and, back, Avie Ramirez, Jaycie Newton, Ally Hensley, GraceAnne Shelley, Jacie Faucett, Morgan Young, Kylie Mennen and Rhiese Shelley.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton Central’s cheerleaders checked off one goal for this year over the weekend by claiming a championship at Saturday’s Indiana Cheer Championship State Finals in New Castle

Now, they move on to their ultimate goal of nationals during the Universal Cheerleading Association championships this February in Orlando, Florida.

“I’m very ecstatic with this group,” said Central coach Allie Schultz, who has led the program for 20 years. “They just work. I have no other words. I’m just very proud.”

This is the school’s third state championship, with the current Division D – Class 1A and 2A basketball schools – title joining previous ones from 2013 and 2015.

“This same group of girls went to nationals last year and were finalists,” Schultz said of last year’s 14th place finish in the UCA championships. “So winning state was a big success on their way to (their next goal) of placing in the top 5 at nationals.”

She said this year’s squad is “a very well-rounded group” who “work well together as a team.

“They are able to isolate each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and they balance each other out,” Schultz said. “They are also very goal oriented. They like to set their short-term goals while focusing on their long-term goals.

“Winning state is one them on their list,” she added. “Their big overarching goal is nationals.”

Clinton Central’s best finish at the UCA championships was fifth in 2012, with that group incidentally finishing as a runner-up in the state championships.

Last year’s squad only graduated one senior, so Schultz was expecting good things from this year’s. She noted the team is led by three “senior leaders” in Kayla Merriman, Shea Bolinger and Kelcy Jarrell.

“We’ll go for the qualifier and nationals and those will be our last two (competitions) for the year,” she noted.

The UCA qualifying meet for nationals will be held Nov. 18 at Pendleton High School. Nationals would involve a three-day competition, with the National Cheerleading Championship set for Feb. 8-10.

Last year’s event hosted over 800 teams and 15,000 athletes with 50,000 attendees, according to the UCA website.