Live Oak High School cheerleaders returned from Mardi Gras break with a national championship title.
The team won the Medium Varsity Division 1 National Champions title at the National High School Cheerleading Championship held Feb. 9-10.
The Live Oak squad wasn't the only Livingston Parish cheerleading squad to pick up hardware at the Orlando cheering competition.
The parish was represented by teams from Live Oak High School, Live Oak Junior High School, Denham Spring Freshman High School and Doyle High School.
The Live Oak team, which won the 2016 in Medium Varsity Division 1 title, left Feb. 8 for the competition held at Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
"Our squad prepared for nationals by keeping our strengths in mind," said Live Oak High cheer coach Madison Guidry. "We wanted to put out the most difficult routine we could while keeping the execution our top priority.
She said their division was filled with great competitors, "so we never stopped pushing ourselves to be the very best."
After finishing second last year at the national competition, Guidry said her team was "hungry to bring the championship back to Live Oak."
"They were more prepared than ever before, hitting multiple times before nationals and it was one of the best overall nationals performances in school history," she said. "This team hit in prelims, moving straight to finals and hit a zero deduction routine in finals. This win validates that all of our hard work and long hours were worth it. If you want to be the best, you have to train like the best, and that's exactly what this team did."
The Live Oak High squad recited a creed before competing, the same creed the girls says before every practice and before stepping on the mat, Guidry said.
The creed states: “Why do we succeed? We succeed because we are willing to do the things you are not. We will fight against the odds. We will sacrifice. We are not shackled by fear, insecurity or doubt. Pride consumes the weak. If we fall, we will get up. If we are beaten, we will return. We will never stop getting better. We will never give up, ever. That is why we succeed.”
The team that competed included only six of the 25 girls who won the 2016 national title. This year's team includes seniors captain Laci Baldwin, Shelby Summers and Courtney Webster; juniors Lexie Blough, Olivia Duhon, Aubrie Lewis, Ashlynn McFadden, Jordan Porter, Callie Prestridge and Kaitlyn Couvillion; sophomores Victoria Burr, Piper Horne, Alayna Karras, Jillian Schenk, Halle Varnado, Kaitlyn Waller and Abby Wang; and freshmen Abbey Barbay, Kaileigh Coffman, Erica Murkowski, Callie Rogers, Brianna White, Reagan Davis, Mackenzie Didier and Dalana Gill.
Kate Hornsby joins Guidry in coaching the team, which is sponsored by Dawn Amanto and Jimmie Chandler.
The big win came on Amato's birthday.
Live Oak Junior High finished the competition in second place in the Large Junior High division.
While it was the first time the squad competed as Live Oak Junior High with seventh- and eighth-graders, middle-school aged students from Live Oak competed in the past and have a long history of winning. The school recently split with seventh- and-eighth graders going to the junior high and fifth- and sixth-graders attending Live Oak Middle School. The group won national championships in 2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and world titles in 2013 and 2014.
The junior high squad is coached by Breanna Erwin and David Patton and team sponsors are Brandi Gary, Sydney McCumsey and Kellie Barbay.
While the Live Oak High squads came into the competition with experience on the national stage, it was a new stage for two other Livingston teams hitting the mats.
It was the first appearance at the national competition for the Denham Springs Freshman team, said sponsor Lisa Harper.
The team from Denham Springs Freshman High School picked up a third-place trophy and bronze medals in the Game Day Junior Varsity Division.
"These young ladies are the first all-freshman team to compete in the junior varsity division in school history," Harper said.
The squad competed against other teams with upperclassmen. The team is coached by Wayne New, and Michelle Wise also is a sponsor.
The Game Day division required the cheerleaders to replicate the actual game day experience with sideline routines, chants and cheers.
She said the girls had practiced for the contest since they were selected in April. The squad knew they would be the only all-freshman team in their contest, she said.
The Denham Springs team included Brennan Averette, Shelby Brocksmith, Jenna Brown, Kahner Boyer, Abi Duncan, Madison Feucht, Jodee Fowler, Grace Fruge, Baleigh Gonzales, Cami Laxton, Tess Miller, Kayla Montes, Kendal Sonnier, Sydney Stepp, Shelby Sanchez and Haleigh Stewart and alternates Eve Fruge, Sidney Cheney and Camryn Miley.
Also making their first appearance at the competition were the Doyle High School cheerleaders.