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Mary Persons competitive cheer team dominated the AAA Sectionals on Saturday, Feb. 6 at Northside High School, coming in 1st in their bracket and receiving the highest score of any AAA school with 102.5 points out of a possible 107. Head coach Kyle Ward was very pleased with the team’s performance, claiming that this was the best the girls had performed in competition thus far. The team also won their region for the fourth consecutive year, beating out Crisp County and Americus-Sumter.  

The competition was unusual this year in that it combined the area tournament and state qualifier, aka “sectionals”, into one event. So, while MP was competing against schools in its region, it was also competing against four other regions to determine the top eight teams in regions 1-AAA through 5-AAA that will move on to the state finals. The top eight from MP’s bracket and the top eight from the other sectional tournament will come together and compete as the top 16 teams at state. 

“This group of eight seniors has been around for all four region wins. A lot of it is due to their hard work and commitment,” says Ward. “The biggest thing we brought that the other teams lacked was energy. When you’re doing a performance, you want it to be fun and energetic. A lot of that energy came from having parents, fans and the community come out and cheer the girls on. We probably had 100+ fans in the stands, three times more than any other team competing. There was a lot of energy in the room and it really helped us stand out.”

Mary Persons score of 102.5 was only 1.5 points short of being perfect in every area the team could be perfect in. Ward says their score may have been a little inflated by the judges, but that it was still about as good a performance as they could pull off. At state with the best of the best competing, Ward doubts the judges will be handing out perfect scores so freely. In the past seven years Mary Persons has gone to the state tournament, the team hasn’t yet managed to “hit” or perform perfectly without any mistakes. 

“There’s just a lot of pressure at State and the arena is so much larger than your typical high school gymnasium. It’s like playing a basketball game at the Macon Complex vs a regular high school stadium. But we’ve hit in competition two weeks in a row and we’re consistently hitting at practice, so I feel confident.”

One team the Lady Dawgs managed to defeat in sectionals was Pierce County, a team that has historically done exceptional in the AAA classification and has won seven straight titles. Pierce scored a 102, .5 behind Mary Persons. Ward says this marked the first time Pierce has lost a competition in several years.  

“We just executed our routine better than them on this particular weekend. That’s how a team like our, that doesn’t max out the score sheet, beats a team like Pierce that does. Based on the results from Sectionals, we are the best team in the state of Georgia in AAA. That’s a big deal for our program and for these girls, that have worked so hard building this program up the past 3-4 years. We’re the #1 seed going into State for the first time ever!”

Pierce came in 2nd in MP’s Sectionals’ bracket, followed by Morgan County at 98 and Rockmart at 96. The top team in the other Sectionals’ bracket was Dawson County with a score of 91, followed East Jackson at 82 and Hart County with 80. Ward conceded that the other Sectional likely had harder judges, which is the reason for the lower scores. Going into state, all 16 teams will have the same group of judges insuring an equal playing field. 

“We’re super excited. This is exactly what you want from your team to give them confidence. Consistency breeds confidence. Being consistent in practice and at these past couple competitions has hopefully given the girls the confidence necessary to perform well going into state.”

The girls will perform in the AAA State Tournament at the Macon Centreplex on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 4p.m.