Today, the Macon R-1 High School Cheer Squad heads to the state competition for varsity cheerleading here in the state of Missouri. Macon R-1 has a history of qualifying and sending cheerleaders for the state cheer competition in years past. This year, The Home Press reached out to Macon Cheer Coach, Tanajia Douglas with a list of questions to be answered. Not every question was answered by every cheerleader on the squad, simply due to the number of cheerleaders and questions. The following, is the list of questions asked and a few of the answers given. Note: The first list of questions were asked toward the coaches, followed by questions for the cheerleaders.

Describe the process that the cheerleaders have to go through to get to the state competition tomorrow?

ANSWER: The cheerleaders qualify for State by placing in the top 5 at the Regional Cheerleading Competition. The Regional competition used to be held in July, but changed this year to the first weekend in November. This changed our scheduling dramatically. We have tryouts in April and practice all summer. Because there was no summer competition we had a more relaxed summer schedule, but the month of November has been packed tight. Some of our girls have been practicing for basketball cheer, and 2 different state routines!

How long have you and Stephanie been the cheer coaches - how many years have you made it to the state competition?

ANSWER: I have been the coach since April of 2015. Stephanie Garvin joined our staff in October of 2015 and our newest coach, Mackenzie Hustead joined in fall of 2017. We have won Regionals the past 2 years and have made it to state for 4 years since we have been coaching. Macon has a rich tradition of cheerleading and we are proud to keep the tradition of quality cheerleading going. I think there has never been a year that Macon didn't make it to the State cheerleading competition. Macon has previously won 20 state championships. Most of those under the leadership of the great Suzy Thompson. She really instilled in Macon Cheerleading a sense of class, work ethic and tradition that we strive for daily. Actually, many times I think . . . what would Mrs. T do, or how will she react. We have been blessed to still maintain a close relationship with her and she offers any support and help she can give. We are so appreciative for her support and mentorship.

What is something special about this group of cheerleaders?

ANSWER: This group is special for many reasons. We have 19 cheerleaders (8 seniors, 1 junior, 3 sophomores and 7 freshmen). The biggest reason is the group of 8 seniors we have. For 5 of those seniors this will be their 4th year state competition. 2 of them their 3rd year and 1, her first year. So we have a lot of experience and leadership. One of the reasons we took a few extra this year was because we would be losing so many talented seniors. The seniors have been through so much and I really hope they can end with bringing home a championship or at the very least hitting a flawless routine that they have no regrets over. Over the past 4 years, some of these girls have spent as much time with cheerleading as they do with their families. We really are a family. I think in addition to a state championship I want them to leave with the knowledge that they have done a great job and have affected so many people. I know for sure that they have affected me. People in education and coaching will always say that they learn as much or more from their students/athletes as they teach them. I can say that for me I have learned so much from them!

How as a coach, are you feeling ahead of tomorrow?

ANSWER: I think we are in a really good place! With cheerleading you practice for months and months for a 3 minute routine. And even though it is a competition and there are tough competitors we really are our own competition. In cheerleading there is no second half, no extra quarters, no overtime. You have to strive for perfection for just those 3 minutes. We spend the summer building our skillset. We traveled for 2 months this summer to AllStar Performance Institute for tumbling training. We also tried to work on our stunting and increasing our level of difficulty. Coming off of the win at regionals, we have really been trying to clean the routine and focus on hitting stunts.

What is the biggest piece of advice have you given to your cheerleaders?

ANSWER: I always tell them to practice it how they will perform it, so that it is muscle memory and they don't have to think as hard about it. We also talk alot about having the drive to win and the toughness to overcome obstacles in their way. In addition to the athletic component, cheerleading is a performance sport. So while they are throwing people in the air and flipping and catching people, they have to smile and be excited the whole time. They have to make it look easy and fun even when the physical effort is immense. When they step on that floor nothing else is important. The focus is on their sisterhood and their routine! We talk a lot about how 20 years from now people will remember them on the sidelines. Remember them smiling and cheering on the Tigers. Remember them in their uniform.

As a senior, what does tomorrow mean to you? (Please ask the senior cheerleaders)

Kayli Perry: "I think being a senior and having my last competition be tomorrow means that I have to go out there and give it my all. We have one last time to show what we can do. It's time to give it our all as a team, and go out there and kill it!"

Madie Ewing: "Being a senior and having our last competition is bittersweet. We've worked so hard to reach where we are now and tomorrow is our last chance to go out there and show them what we have accomplished through all of our years of hard work and dedication. I'm excited to go out on the mat with my girls for one final time."

Gabbi Goulder: "As a senior tomorrow is my last chance to kill it with my girls. We have less than 3 minutes to give it our all and show the hard work and dedication we have put into this season. It's my last chance to wow the crowd and I'm ready to go out with a bang."

Alize Burnam: "Our team has worked really hard the past few years to be the best. We've come a long way from where we first started and it shows in our hearts and on the mat. I'm excited to go out there tomorrow and give it everything we've got, but no matter what we're a family and always will be."

Carlee Wilt: "Tomorrow is our final time cheering together in high school. It's bittersweet and it's exciting at the same time. I've had a blast with every single person on this squad, and the memories we've made. It's our last chance to show what we can do, and how far we've come since freshman year. These past four years of cheerleading have meant so much to me."

Evie Nelson: "As a senior, tomorrow means that we have 3 minutes to show people what we can do. These past 4 years have taught me so much and I can't wait to go perform for the last time with my team."

Blythe McLelland: "Tomorrow will be it. It will be the last time we all get to cheer together, compete together, and win together. I have never not had faith in us. I know in my heart that we can do this. It is nerve wracking, but I know we got it. It's bittersweet that tomorrow will be my last competition, I don't want this to end. But I know that my future has more to hold, thanks to my amazing squad and coaches."

Kattie Peyton: "As a senior, tomorrow means we have to give our all and show the judges that we deserve to win. The season is coming to an end and this is our last opportunity to perform as a team. We've had many ups and downs this season, but I've loved every second of it and wouldn't change a thing."

What is your favorite part of being on the cheer squad? (Ask a handful of cheerleaders)

Kayli Perry: "My favorite part of being on the cheer squad is cheering on the sideline on Friday nights."

Lilli Crooks: "My favorite part about being on the cheer squad is knowing these girls will always be my second family. "

Haylie Wilt: “My favorite part about being on the cheer squad is getting to know all the amazing girls, and getting to learn new things. Thing I love most, is showing my tiger pride.”

Emma Blackford: “My favorite part about being on the cheer squad is seeing the faces of the little kids during cheer clinics.”

Madie Ewing: “My favorite part of cheer is the special bond that I make with my team and knowing that these girls will always have my back.”

Kalesha Edwards: “My favorite part about being on the cheer squad is spreading tiger pride throughout the stands on Friday nights.”

Mickayla Aldridge: “My favorite part about being on the cheer squad is the special bond that we all share and knowing that no matter what happens, we’ll always be a team.”

Jasmine: “My favorite part of being on the cheer squad is all the memories I make with these lovely ladies. I also love watching everyone’s big smiles on Friday nights.”

What does it mean leading a group of girls into the state competition? (Ask the cheer captain)

“We don't have a captain this year . . . so I asked a few seniors.” - Douglas

Alize Burnam: "It's crazy to think about us being the upperclassmen taking girls to state. We were all in their shoes once and through the years we've grown in cheer, not only to make ourselves better but our team better too. Cheer plays a big role in my life and I hope that the younger girls who haven't had the chance to compete yet will feel the same we do now. "

Madie Ewing: "It means a lot to be in the position of the girls I looked up to as an underclassman. I remember what it was like when I went ot my first competition and I try to encourage the girls to be confident in everything they do and to leave it all out on the mat. There's no better feeling than when all of your hard work pays off. My love for cheer has only grown greater through the years and I hope they come to love this sport and enjoy it as much as I do."

Carlee Wilt: "It's a really cool experience being able to help the girls younger than me. It seems like just yesterday we were the underclassmen. Cheerleading has taught me a lot about leadership, and just in general. I can't wait to show everyone what we can do tomorrow, and I'm excited to see what the younger girls will accomplish in the future."

What does being a Macon Tiger mean to you? (Ask a few cheerleaders)

Kayli Perry: "Being a Macon Tiger is so important to me for many reasons. I've made life long friendships. I've made memories that will last forever, and most importantly I've got the privilege to have a team that felt like family. "

Lilli Crooks: "To me being a Macon Tigers means being able to be involved in so much and feeling so much support from the community through all the sports and clubs."

Blythe McLelland: "Being a Macon Tiger means to me that I am an important girl in Macon County. I'm proud to be at Macon High School, to live in this town, and to be a Macon High School Cheerleader. I'm proud to be a representation of our amazing community and school. I'm involved in so much and have amazing teachers and coaches. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

Gabbi Goulder: "Being a Macon Tiger means so much to me. For the rest of my life I will be known as a Macon Tiger. I'm so proud to be a part of the community. It gives me a chance to be involved with many amazing people. The best part is knowing that children look up to us and want to become a future Macon Tiger."

What is something you have learned from cheerleading?

Kattie Peyton: "I've learned from cheerleading that your team is your family. We've created an unbreakable bond that goes beyond just cheer and memories we will never forget."

Evie Nelson: "I've learned from cheerleading, that every single person on the team matters. It doesn't matter if you're short or tall, outgoing or shy. You have an important role to play on the team."

From everyone here at the Home Press, we would like to wish the best of luck to the Macon R-1 Varsity Cheerleaders as they compete in the state competitions today!

Picture above: Macon R-1 Cheerleaders and Coaches after Regional Competition