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St. Al squad tops in state academically

St. Aloysius High School cheerleaders, clockwise from left, Alicia Humble, Becca Bailess, Beth Federick, Laura Weeks, Maggie Pikul, Carrie Neill, Marlee Mims, Andrea Harrison, Josie Hood, Holly Duke, Jenny McGuffee and Anna Federick stand in the school library. The squad won the award for the Highest Grade Point Average from the Mississippi High School Activities Association.(C. Todd Sherman/The Vicksburg Post)

For the second time in three years, the football cheerleaders at St. Aloysius High School have the highest grade point average of the 76 squads competing at the state competition in December.

The award was to be announced at the competition at Meridian High School, but in the excitement at the ceremony, which is hosted by the Mississippi High School Activities Association, the award was forgotten.

“We waited and waited for them to announce the award, but it was time for us to go, so we left assuming we didn’t get the award,” sponsor Renee McGuffee said.

McGuffee was surprised, she said, when, two weeks later, officials from the MHSAA called and said the squad won.

The squad, which won the award in 2000 as well, had a 3.99 GPA.

The MHSAA does not award a school with second place, but McGuffee said an MHSAA official said no other school came close to having a 3.99 GPA.

Mary Frances Waters, assistant director of the MHSAA, said the award is a prestigious honor.

“Anybody who can do as much as the cheerleaders do and keep their grades up is phenomenal,” she said. “This award is just as important as winning an award for their cheer ability, if not more.”

The group of 12 girls also placed second in the state in their class, 1A Small, and are the regional champions for that division.

McGuffee’s 17-year-old daughter, Jenny, a senior and co-captain of the squad, said grades are the top priority of the squad.

“There are times when we have left practice early to study or we’ve missed practice to meet with a teacher,” Jenny said.

Beth Federick, a 15-year-old sophomore, said practicing five days a week during football season makes keeping her grades up hard.

“My grades go down during football season,” she said. “But they come back up when it’s over.”

Carrie Neill, a 16-year-old junior, said being a cheerleader is a good way to learn time management.

“I can support my school and keep my grades up at the same time,” she said.

Senior Anna Federick, 17, Beth’s sister and the squads’ other co-captain, said during the season she was ready for her cheerleading days to be over.

“Now I look back, and it was really fun,” she said. “I’m going to miss it.”

The others on the squad are Laura Weeks, Maggie Pikul, Becca Bailess, Alicia Humble, Josie Hood, Andrea Harrison, Marlee Mims and Holly Duke.

Tryouts for the 2003-2004 school year will be Saturday. To try out for the squad, girls must be passing all classes and must have been enrolled at the school since the beginning of the school year. Additionally, 15 percent of the girls’ scores is based on teachers’ recommendations.

“They are evaluated not just on their cheer ability but on their overall attitude and school leadership,” McGuffee said.

She said cheerleading requires a huge time commitment.

“It consumes your life,” she said.