Plum spirit squad shows competitive drive

Sunday, January 12, 2020 | 9:33 AM

Every Saturday in the fall, the Plum competitive spirit team met in the gym for a 7 a.m. practice after cheering the night before at football games with a determination to get stronger.

Waking up early to get together after a long night on the sidelines was just one of the examples of the drive Plum coach Amanda Anderson saw in her squad this year.

Even though the Mustangs fell short of their ultimate goal of qualifying for states for the second consecutive season when they competed at the WPIAL championships Jan. 4 at Hempfield, Anderson couldn’t have been happier with the improvement in her team and the foundation they’ve built for the future.

“The girls put a good performance on the floor,” Anderson said. “The rest of the coaching staff and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Plum scored a 66.5 on Saturday and finished 20th overall at the competition and ninth in the small division. It’s the second year the program has been rejuvenated after a two-year hiatus.

The Mustangs narrowly failed to qualify for the PIAA championship last year, missing by one-tenth of a point.

Plum had 15 girls on the team, and the near miss last year became the theme for motivation this season.

“They pushed to get harder skills, more difficult tumbling and show everybody that we are a team that is good and that we are here to compete,” Anderson said. “Our team embodied that, and it showed at WPIALs that they were confident in their skills and stronger than they were last year.

“I think it worked out pretty well other than not qualifying (for states). I thought the girls had a really strong performance. They had a lot of support from other schools and from our own school that made the girls feel really good about themselves.”

Aside from WPIALs, the Mustangs competed at the Bethel Park showdown and at Slippery Rock’s regional event.

Plum graduates five seniors: Olivia Pernice, Jordan Westbrook, Savannah Kay, Alex Anderson and Delaney Marzina. All five were considered captains of this year’s team.

“They led the team as a group this year,” Anderson said.

Plum returns three juniors, two sophomores and five freshmen. Girls on the varsity and junior varsity cheering teams who try out for the competitive team will make up the rest of the spots. Depending on turnout and performance, the coaches will decide whether to continue being in the small division or bump up to the medium or large division.

Anderson likes the athleticism her underclassmen possess and is optimistic for the future of the program. The hope is that the third time is the charm and the Mustangs can break through and qualify for the PIAA championship next year.

“A lot of the underclassmen really showed their strengths,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to see the underclassmen we have become upperclassmen and really motivate the girls we have on the team. I think it’ll be a good mix of talent and strength. The drive that they have is definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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