Carmel High School Cheer Team Wins Two State Championships

Writer  /  Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography provided by CHS Cheer Team

In November, the Carmel High School Cheer Team won two varsity division state championships on the same day — an unprecedented accomplishment. The first, called the “Time Out Division,” simulates an actual game-time experience.

“The buzzer sounds, and the cheerleaders attack the floor with pom-poms, signs, flags and megaphone to encourage crowd participation. Then they perform a one-minute cheer,” says Lisa Knipp, who has been coaching high school cheerleading for 33 years — 15 of those at CHS. This division encompasses all high schools in the state, and is not broken down by school enrollment or athlete’s age, which means that all Knipp’s cheerleaders were able to participate.

“That was fun having all my cheerleaders on the floor getting the people in the stands up yelling, cheering and following our signs,” Knipp says. “The time-out division is a strong indicator of the ability for your teams to lead the crowd and truly be cheerleaders in support of your athletic teams.”

The squad also won the Performance Division. The prep work that goes into becoming state champions is not for the faint of heart. Following May try-outs is a week of cheerleading camp where the team focuses on learning challenging skills and safety techniques. They also engage in intense conditioning to be prepared to endure a two and a half-minute routine, not to mention all the stunts, basket tosses and pyramid building they must do.

“We practice every day before and after school to perfect routines,” says senior Haley Franciosi. “We run, sweat and are exhausted at the end of our practices, which consist of lifting 110-130 pounds repeatedly, jumping, flipping and tumbling non-stop.”

To facilitate her squad in reaching the highest possible caliber, Knipp brings in national choreographers who help her put together a two and a half-minute routine, which encompasses all elements of cheerleading, including jumps, standing tumbling, running tumbling, partner stunts, pyramids, formation changes, a cheer with words and motions and a dance.

“In that two and a half-minute routine, there are many facets of the score sheet that need to be hit to score well,” says Knipp, who also recruits the help of the University of Kentucky cheer team. This 23-time national championship team incorporates individual and partner stunts into Carmel’s routines to showcase difficulty.

“To be a competition cheerleader, you need to be focused on your team and your goal,” says Estella Ruiz, a sophomore. “You must be attentive and know all of the roles just in case you’re dropped into someone else’s part.”

At the start of every season, Knipp tells her cheerleaders that there are three elements in being a student-athlete: academics, athletics and social.

“You can be successful in two of those facets but not all three, and academics is not a choice,” Knipp says.

Junior Anika Antony can attest to sacrificing a social life for cheering.

“Although I may see my friends during school and football games, I don’t have much free time because I’m either at practice or doing schoolwork,” Antony says.

Knipp always tells her cheerleaders that she doesn’t care if they win, lose or draw.

“If we go out on that mat and represent our families, our school and our community with a clean performance, and we do so to the best of our ability, that’s a championship to me,” Knipp says.

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