Thrill lingers for national champion Live Oak Middle cheerleaders

Morgan King and her fellow Live Oak Middle School cheerleaders are still flying high after winning a national championship.

King, 14, a co-captain of the Live Oak Middle School team, said it’s still an amazing feeling, even 10 days after finishing first in their division at the Universal Cheerleaders Association’s National High School Cheerleading Championship.

“You have a lot of butterflies, and everybody is looking at you, and you feel like everything you’ve worked for has finally paid off in the end,” King said.

A few Livingston Parish cheerleading teams, including Live Oak Middle School, racked up awards at the championships, which took place Feb. 8- 9 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Live Oak Middle School won its third straight national championship in the Small Junior High Division and came in third at the World Level. Live Oak High School finished second nationally in the Medium Varsity Division II category.

Two Denham Springs squads, Jacket Rec Gold and Live Oak Rec Cheer, came in first in their divisions for nonschool-affiliated teams — Senior Rec and Junior Rec, respectively.

Jacket Rec Gold also won its world competition.

All the teams continued what has quickly become a pattern for Livingston Parish cheerleading teams — excellence at the National High School Cheerleading Championship.

“I can’t even put it into words,” said Amy Stevens, head coach of the Live Oak Middle School and Live Oak Rec Cheer teams. “It’s really just unbelievable.”

Chrissy Howze, Jacket Rec Gold’s sponsor, said her girls were nervous but determined when they competed on a national stage.

“You don’t always get to go to Disney World with your 25 closest friends,” Howze said.

Howze said the success is so unexpected for her team because it’s only the team’s second year of existence.

“We went last year to nationals and placed second, which is phenomenal, but it wasn’t first,” Howze said. “They knew from that point on that their goal was to win nationals.”

Live Oak Middle School has finished in the top three of its division since 2006 and in the top two the last six years, including this year, Stevens said.

Ironically, Stevens said this year was supposed to be a “rebuilding” season for the Live Oak Middle School after the team lost 13 eighth-graders from a year ago.

“For us to actually win, it was truly a huge surprise, given that I had a brand new team on the mat,” Stevens said.

Holland Hardison, the other co-captain of the Live Oak Middle School team, said the feeling of winning again was indescribable, especially given the inexperience of the team.

“All the dedication” paid off, Hardison said.

All the teams won their respective divisions at the Louisiana Regional on Nov. 17 at Live Oak High School in Watson to qualify for nationals. Live Oak High School’s team also won a state championship Dec. 7 in Lake Charles.

Live Oak Middle School’s cheerleading team has 23 girls ages 11 to 14. Stevens has been coaching the team the last 13 years.

Live Oak Rec Cheer, founded in 2007 by Stevens, has about 45 members ages 5 to 13.

Jacket Rec Gold, a 25-member team, has girls from Denham Springs, Walker and Baton Rouge. Howze said coaches from Southeastern Louisiana University train the team.

For all of the teams, the results came thanks to plenty of practice.

“They put in hours and hours of hard work,” Howze said. “Hours.”