By Stephen Boyle - firstname.lastname@example.org
BERRYVILLE -- Central junior Natalie Batlle has been cheering since she was six years old. Now her favorite part is the feeling she gets when she steps onto the cheer mat, but that's not how she got started.
"When you're little you're like, 'I just want to be like my big sister,'" Natalie explained.
Natalie's older sister Candice is the head cheerleading coach at Strasburg High School, so the Batlle family was well represented at the Bull Run District tournament at Clarke County on Saturday.
While Candice's Rams did not place in the top four to move onto regionals, the Strasburg coach could still be proud of her little sister. Natalie was one of four Central cheerleaders to be named to the All-District team and the Falcons placed second at the tournament, behind only host Clarke County.
"I'm really proud of my team," Natalie Batlle said. "We did the best we could."
The Falcons were only two points shy of the district title. Central finished with 445 points, while Clarke County ended with 447. It's the Eagles first ever Bull Run District title.
"I'm super excited," said Clarke County coach Melissa Astin, who was named district Coach of the Year. "I'm proud of every single one of these girls."
While most schools at the tournament had competed in at least one cheer invitational prior to districts -- the Falcons had competed in four -- Clarke County had yet to take part in a competitive cheer meet this season.
"No one's seen this routine until today," Astin said.
She did point out that practicing from 5:30-7:30 in the morning Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays had seemed to be enough experience for her Eagles.
There were two rounds of competition Saturday and the Falcons had one five-point deduction in the first round, which may have been the difference in the district meet.
"Deductions are our worst enemy," Central coach Carrie Hodges explained after the meet.
The Falcons coach is used to close finishes. Her team qualified for the state cheer competition by one point last season. Hodges' squad's second routine on Saturday was smoother than their first.
"We got all our nerves out and we knew we just had to have fun," Batlle said of the Falcons second routine.
Batlle is joined on the All-District team by teammates Julie Turner, Kirsten Conner and Eden Kibler. Only Clarke County had more All-District team members. The Eagles had five representatives, including Cheerleader of the Year Nick Sipe. Danielle Finchman was the lone representative for Strasburg.
"She's just a very strong competitor," said Candice Batlle. "Great personality and leadership. She does exactly what we ask of her."
Manassas Park and George Mason will join Central and Clarke County at the regional cheer competition. They finished in third and fourth place, respectively.