Spirit is one of the fastest-growing activities in the country, and nowhere is that growth more evident than in Texas. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) State Spirit Championships have experienced tremendous growth in their three years of existence. The 2018 event took place in January at the Fort Worth (Texas) Convention Center and featured 466 programs from throughout the Lone Star state.
UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt and his staff hosted nearly 10,000 participants during the championships, including those participating in the recently added “Game Day” format.
“We are very pleased with the progress of the UIL State Spirit Championships,” Breithaupt said. “More than a third of our 1,450 high schools competed in our third-annual event. The Game Day format has been well-received, and the competition for a state championship in each conference has drawn large crowds in support of the cheerleaders. It’s also important to note that sanctioning cheer in Texas has brought about tremendous opportunities for the education of coaches and cheerleaders in regard to the health and safety of our students.”
The UIL schools compete in one of six conferences (Divisions 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A), as well as a coed division. Conferences 5A and 6A feature two champions each as they each are split into two divisions, bringing the total number of champions to nine. Conference 5A D1 is for school enrollments of 1,730 to 2,149; Conference 5A D2 has school enrollments ranging from 1,100 to 1,729 students; Conference 6A D1 consists of schools with enrollments of more than 2,725 students; and Conference 6A D2 has school enrollments ranging from 2,150 to 2,724 students.
The championships are composed of three competitive categories (crowd leading, fight song and band dance) in which schools compete in a preliminary division event and final competition. Conference 6A D2 is one exception to the format as it features two group competitions for the preliminary division events. All divisions conclude with an awards ceremony. The makeup of each school competing in a conference consists of a maximum of 12 participants (three or fewer males) for those in Conferences 1A and 2A. A maximum of 20 participants (three or fewer males) can compete for a squad in Conferences 3A and 4A. Conferences 5A and 6A permit a maximum of 30 participants (three or fewer males). Similarly, the coed division allows a maximum of 30 participants, but allows four males to be among the participant total.
At this year’s event, Paducah High School (1A), Junction High School (2A) and Mount Vernon High School (3A) all claimed their third-consecutive UIL State Spirit Championship. Crandall High School (4A), Cedar Park High School (5A D1), Mission Sharyland Pioneer High School (5A D2), San Antonio Johnson High School (6A D1) and McAllen Memorial High School (6A D2) rounded out the winners for the UIL’s larger classes. San Antonio Johnson’s win was also its third in a row after earning championships in 2016 and 2017 at which time Class 6A participants competed within a single division. The coed division champion was Lewisville High School.
“The amount of work and time that it takes to win our spirit championship is evident in the skill on display,” said Dr. Susan Elza, UIL director of athletics. “We are proud of the work of our cheerleaders who participate as a part of their respective school’s spirit teams. We’re amazed by their competitive focus and amazing talent. It takes sharp skill to compete in the synchronicity of fellow teammates, and the athleticism of all participants is incredible. We are proud for our winners and proud for every team that participates.”
The rules for the UIL State Spirit Championships stipulate that “mascots and flag runners are welcomed but cannot be involved in the execution of cheer skills. All participants on the floor count toward total.”
The league’s first sponsored championships took place in 2016. At that time, the event was able to attract 317 schools. By the time 2017 arrived, the UIL transitioned the championships into a pilot program, drawing 425 schools and more than 9,800 participants.
“Dr. Charles Breithaupt, along with Varsity Spirit, shared the collaborative vision to create the UIL State Spirit Championships,” Elza said.
Elza added that such an event would be difficult to manage without the help of Varsity Spirit and its staff, who she applauded for keeping the championships moving along from the day they arrive until the last champions are crowned.
“The lion’s share of the credit needs be given to the staff at Varsity Spirit. Leading up to the event, our UIL staff works in collaboration with Varsity Spirit coordinating dates, venues, schedules, registrations and programs,” Elza said. “Once we arrive at the event site, the Varsity Spirit staff takes over and runs the event from start to finish with our UIL staff being chiefly in charge of greeting and communicating with participant schools and awarding our winners. The Varsity Spirit staff runs a professional and first-class event for our schools and we could not be more pleased with their work and effort.”
Cody Porter is a graphic arts/communications assistant in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department.