Sirens blared and lights flashed as the Carterville High School cheer team victoriously rode through town on their charter bus led by a police escort on Saturday night. Twelve girls pointed and waved at onlookers with smiles on their faces. They arrived at the high school to their family and friend’s applause as they exited with their first place trophy held high.
Carterville Cheer took first place in the IHSA State State Small Team Final on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2020. The team scored 89.87, 5.54 points higher than they scored the day before in the preliminary round.
“The most inspiring characteristic about this team is their desire and passion to push the limits to their absolute maximum,” Coach Linda Drust said.
Linda Drust said as soon as the competition ends they begin working on the next year. Her passion in cheer is guiding young women throughout high school.
“It’s the challenge, it’s the enthusiasm, it’s working with young women to help them work as a team.”
It was working on the little things that put the team at the top, said Linda Drust. The night before the finals the team practiced the sharpness of their movements and keeping their fingers together and legs straight.
“Our overall goal for each performance is to ‘hit zero,’ which means we hit all of our skills and have zero deductions,” Drust said.
Linda Drust says the commitment the parents and families have is important for the girls.
“They make sure that they have the proper attire. They get them to practice on time. They go to games,” Drust said.
Senior Maddy Olson has been tumbling since she was eight years old and competing since she was nine. She was excited to finish the season off strong.
“We’ve been working since freshman year to get to the point we are now. This is the best we’ve ever been,” Olson said.
Coach Amy Drust, daughter of Linda Drust and former Carterville High School cheerleader, says that the girls’ dedication pushed them throughout the season.
The team made it to the top ten in the finals last year and finished fifth. Amy Drust says that drive pushed the team, especially the seniors, to their win this year.
Amy has been tumbling since she was two years old. In her junior of high school year her mother became her assistant cheer coach.
Today Amy and her mother are a coaching duo, which can have its own challenges, but she enjoys working with her “best friend.”
This year, senior Lauren Cravens started with the Lions after she moved from Du Quoin. During the year she has been in Carterville, she has bonded with the other girls on the team.
“From the first open gym they were all open. They’ve been so nice throughout,” Cravens said.
She remembers feeling shocked when the state champion was announced.
“I just felt like everything we had worked towards finally paid off. It was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Cravens said.
Cravens says she was proud of every girl on the team and knew how dedicated they were to their performances.
“This would not have happened today without everyone. Every person played an important role on this team,” Cravens said.