The Fort Worth Convention Center dazzled with glittery bows, bright eye shadow, big smiles, pompoms and energetic cheers as thousands of cheerleaders across Texas were in downtown Fort Worth to compete in the UIL Spirit State Championships on Tuesday.
The three-day event runs to Thursday evening, with each division, 1A through 6A — 435 schools — competing in a preliminary round before the final competition performance.
Alisha Fickle, head cheer coach at Timber Creek High School in Keller, said she and a team of 30 students woke up at 6:15 a.m. to prepare for competition Tuesday.
“Before we go out there, I always tell them that I love them and to smile,” Fickle said.
The convention center was packed Tuesday with teams practicing their routines, family and friends coming to lend support and coordinators keeping the chaos organized.
Some cheerleaders were studying as they waited their turn, with finals looming the first week after returning from winter break.
Heather Van Hossier came to support her daughter, MaKena Krier, a sophomore at Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, who is competing for the second year.
“I’m proud of the teamwork they have, and how hard they’ve worked together,” Van Hossier said. “I’m just excited to watch her perform.”
Each team will do a crowd-leading cheer, a band dance routine and a fight song routine.
Alex Ferguson, team captain and senior at H. Grady Spruce High School in Dallas, said this is the team’s first time at the UIL competition. They were nervous, but feeling more confident after performing their first preliminary routine.
“It’s my senior year, and we’ve never done a competition of this size before,” Ferguson said. “We just want to show them that you’re capable of doing anything as long as you try.”