At the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) Cheerleading State Championships, held February 15-16, in Macon, Ga., the Mount Paran Christian Eagle competition cheer squad brought home its ninth consecutive State championship. The State championships were hosted at the Macon Centreplex after the date was pushed back and location changed due to Covid-19 protocols.
The MPC squad is the only cheer team in the entire state, across any regional class, to have achieved the impressive feat of nine consecutive cheer titles. The GHSA Class A-Private Competition Cheer State title has been bestowed upon the MPC Eagles squad since the 2012-2013 season.
The MPC competition team, coached by Paige Johnson and Catina Taliaferro, set as its theme for this year “Dyn9sty.” In a season beset by injuries, quarantines, and ever-changing schedules, the 17-member squad relentlessly pursued excellence in every stage of the cheer season.
Coach Johnson, a former Auburn University cheerleader herself, commented, “The girls that make up the competition team are incredible athletes who have given a whole new meaning to what it means to persevere and overcome. These girls train year-round: running and conditioning, lifting weights, tumbling, stunting, cheering on the sidelines of football and games. Every one of these girls is a skilled athlete - most of them play and compete in other sports. They have finished their season with a perfect record!”
Senior E. Balas shared, “Even though this year was difficult, the State championship was more meaningful because of the adversities the team faced. I’m extremely proud and grateful to be a part of such a committed legacy.”
Each year, the squad works to build a strong sense of camaraderie and trust, which allows team members to attempt increasingly complex and daring routines. Coach Johnson says building trusting relationships stems from faith: “We have a special bond and team chemistry that, I believe, comes from team discipleship and bonding that starts each and every practice by studying God’s word and how we should apply it to our lives. This creates a deep connection and builds unity and depth of relationship.”
This year, especially, that bond has been put to the test. “Some people dreaded this extended season,” said senior L. Johnson, “but I count it as a blessing because of the time I got to spend with my teammates and coach. The relationships on this team and all the countless hours we have spent together means the world to me, and I wouldn’t have wanted this season any other way.”
Competition cheerleading is acknowledged as an Olympic sport and has been recognized by the GHSA/NCAA for 25-plus years. The MPC Lady Eagles were named GCCA Team of the Year in 2018. The level of difficulty of their routine consistently outscores larger schools and classes.
The cheer squad holds the most consecutive GHSA State championships for any sport in Cobb county. This ninth consecutive title also puts MPC competition cheer in a tie with Lakeside gymnastics (1971-1979) for third most consecutive titles in the state in any sport. The top two spots for most State championships in any sport belong to Jefferson wrestling (2001-2019) and Westminster boys cross country (1996-2005).
Of note, MPCS senior cheerleaders L. Johnson and M. Epps were named to the 2020 All-State Cheerleading team, selected from a field of 200. Both athletes have just earned their fourth varsity competition cheer State Championship ring. GCCA scholarship award nominees compete for the Georgia All-State Squad and are judged on their application, interview, and performance, with one recipient recognized as Cheerleader of the Year. This year, that honor goes to Miss Epps.