The Tug Valley cheer squad beat defending champion Liberty Harrison by 2.45 points to capture the title at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum. Tug finished with a score of 321.65, while Liberty Harrison finished as runner-up with a 319.2 score.
Lincoln High finished third with a 314.6 score, while Magnolia finished fourth with a 300.2 score. Scott High from Boone County finished fifth with a score of 280, Weird finished sixth with a score of 275.32, Oak Hill placed seventh with a 269.8 score and Liberty Raleigh finished eighth with a 249.7 score.
Tug Valley Cheer Coach Tara Ellis said her team overcame a lot of obstacles to win the championship. First was the long layoff and then her backspot, Brittany Copley, broke her hand during the team's Open House on Wednesday, just three nights before the competition.
"I think this is the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to us," Ellis said as tears streamed down her cheeks. "We have had a long road and a lot of things happen and it's just the greatest feeling in the whole world."
Ellis had to stick alternate Michaella Messer into the routine after only a day practice following Copley's season-ending injury. Ellis called Messer "a Godsend."
"Michaella Messer has saved our life," Ellis said. "We taught her a whole routine, a cheer and a dance and taught her to be back spot in seven hours and this is why it means so much. We could have not came or just have shown up. We're just so excited. We've worked so hard for this."
Messer, a freshman, was nearly speechless after the win. She said she wasn’t scared stepping into the role of backspot. “No, I knew we could do it,” she said. “It was hard, but I did it.”
None of the teams were perfect. Ellis said the rust showed, but everyone performed well.
"Nobody was perfect, but I think they all represented their schools well," Ellis said. "Considering the circumstances, every team here did a fantastic job. I've always been a huge fan of Liberty Harrison. They're our friends and I give props to them and I think they are fantastic."
The team's only senior, Brandi Davis, said winning the state title was the best feeling in the world.
"Oh my gosh, I am totally speechless," Davis said. "The hard work and the pain we went through was nothing compared to this moment. I'd do it all over again."
Kaitlyn Canterbury said it was tough putting together an entirely new routine on the eve of the competition and after it was all over, she was anxious to hear who won.
"I was really worried because we had to throw a whole new routine together in one day," Canterbury said. "Waiting for the announcement, my heart was pounding and I couldn't breathe. It was amazing. We've been working for this since August (2009). This has gone on way too long, but it is all worth it."
Ashley Hall said winning the title was a dream come true.
"It feels like a dream," Hall said. "I thought we could do it before, but, with the delay and all, I wasn't as sure. We went out there and did our best and we won."
Chelsea Oliver said the Tug Valley cheer team put in a lot of hours of hard work.
"We put in blood, sweat and tears," Oliver said. "It was hard and we did our best. We did everything we could and came out state champions. It's amazing. I can't believe it."
The state title is Tug Valley’s second in cheerleading. The TVHS cheerleaders won the 2005 Class A state title. Tug has finished as runner-up twice — in 2006 and 2007.
The Class AA cheer competition was originally set for Dec. 12 when the Class A and Class AAA competitions were held. But, a lawsuit by the Wayne County School Board that said Tolsia was illegally assessed a 60-point penalty for a stunt that knocked the THS cheerleaders out of a spot in the competition caused the double-A cheer championship to be postponed for four months.
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission went to court to fight back against a Wayne County circuit judge's injunction that barred the WVSSAC from assessing the 60-point penalty against Tolsia and that ruling allowed the Tolsia cheer team back into the competition. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision when it refused 4-1 to hear the case.
The cheer competition was then set for April 3 and Tolsia was added to the other eight teams.
But, after Tolsia was reinstated to the competition and after all the controversy, the THS cheerleading team backed out of the competition, saying the cheer competition was a hostile environment "because everyone has become angry and unsportsmanlike to our school's cheer team," according to a statement given to WRTF Channel 7 News by Wayne County Schools official Sandra Pertee, who is the former coach of the Tolsia cheer team and who is still involved with Wayne County's cheer programs.
“Every bit of this is a result of the poor decision the WVSSAC made," Pertee told the TV news station. "It was never our intention to cause hardship for any school and we send our most sincere best wishes to the schools that put their team on the floor. For Tolsia, we are OK with the fact that the event can go forward because it was a situation that just needs closure. but we certainly applaud the courts; in the process it's evident Tolsia did nothing wrong. The victory in the courts is enough for us."
After all eight teams had finished their cheer routines, many people in the crowd cheered "Bring on the Rebels," which was an obvious reference to the Tolsia Rebels cheerleaders.