By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Sherando's cheerleading squad entered Tuesday's Northwestern District tournament at James Wood High School having already locked up a regional berth.
The Warriors were crowned the regular-season champions after winning both district minis earlier in the season, but that didn't mean they were going to take Tuesday's tournament lightly.
Sherando used the opportunity to attempt their most difficult routine of the season, and it paid off for the Warriors as they captured the tournament title with a final score of 227 points.
"The routine tonight, we added in our standing full in the opening and we changed our partner stunts to up the difficulty," said Sherando senior Darian Banks. "We were really excited for that -- to be able to do something new. It was a challenge that no other school was able to do, so we were excited."
James Wood turned in a solid performance that brought an energetic home crowd to its feet, but the Colonels finished second with a score of 209.5.
Skyline (200.5 points) finished third in the tournament for the second year in a row, and Millbrook (178) and Handley (158) came in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Sherando has been a consistent squad in the Northwestern District throughout the last six years. The Warriors have advanced to the state tournament every year since 2007, but this year was the first time that Sherando claimed the regular-season championship.
"It's beyond exciting, there's no words to describe it," said Banks. "I've been on varsity for four years and we've never won districts, or been able to just go to regions right of the bat from districts. It's unbelievable that we've finally been able to accomplish it."
Skyline coach Christy Baylis said the Hawks put forth a very good routine on Tuesday, but a few miscues prevented them from overcoming the Colonels for the second spot and moving on to the Region II tournament.
"I think the girls did their best. We had a few issues along the way, it wasn't a perfect performance," Baylis said. "The other teams did have solid performances. James Wood did an excellent job and brought lots of energy, and Sherando has been solid all season. We just have to step our game up a notch to keep up."
Skyline junior Annie Berry said the Hawks have no regrets after placing third in the district tournament.
Berry said the Hawks are a young squad that will improve between now and next season, and Skyline will certainly used the experience gained on Tuesday to help in that improvement process.
"We have so much potential, and so much talent," said Berry. "We put it all out there, and we had a few mistakes, but we should be proud of this performance.
"Wait 'til next season. We'll be back, stronger than ever."
Sherando and James Wood will both travel to John Champe High School in Aldie on Nov. 3 for the Region II tournament.
The regional berth is nothing new for the Warriors, but the regular-season district crown, as well as the tournament championship, is something that will stick with Sherando coach Tom Grim for some time.
"We have been so amazing over the last five or six years, but we've never had that opportunity [to win the regular-season title]," Grim said. "Something has always happened -- we'd have one bad performance.
"This year, our goal was to just go out and nail it time after time, and this group of girls did that."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org