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CONTRIBUTED The Vina Red Devils cheer squad competes at the Alabama South Regionals over Thanksgiving break in Birmingham. The students placed second in the Co-Ed Game Day Division and received a bid to nationals in Orlando in February.

Vina High School cheer squad wins big at first-ever competition

Despite being a small school, Vina High School’s cheerleading squad took on big opponents for its first-ever competition. The Red Devils placed second at the Alabama South Regionals and received a bid to the national competition in Orlando in February.

This was the first year for the Red Devils to compete – something head coach Brittany Pannell said she has been trying to get the squad to do for years. After becoming a co-ed squad this year, Pannell said that was enough to encourage the team to attend its first competition.

“They’ve always been a really good squad, but I think they just never had the confidence to believe they could compete on this large of a stage,” Pannell said. “This year, I have just really seen them grow and step outside of their shells.”

In their first competition, the Red Devils came in second place to a 6A school.

“The only reason we didn’t end up with first place was because we dropped a stunt, which took off the same amount of points we would have needed to win,” Pannell said. “I think that really says a lot about those kids – that they went out there and were almost able to beat a 6A school as this small squad.”

The Red Devils competed in the Co-Ed Game Day Division, which required performing two band dances, a cheer and a sideline chant. Pannell said the most intimidating part was the sideline chant because the judges called out a specific chant for the team to perform as they got on stage.

“We practiced that ‘This is what we are going to do if the judge calls out offense,’ or if they call out defense, but it is still nerve-racking because you don’t know what to expect,” Pannell said.

Now that the initial competition is out of the way, Pannell said the team has a lot of fundraising to do to pay for the trip to nationals. The competition will take place in February at Walt Disney World, and Pannell said the competition closes the entire park for a few days. The trip will cost about $1,000 for each student, with 14 students attending.

“I just told my kids the goal was to get a bid to nationals because that is where all of the fun is,” Pannell said. “They went out there and did it. I am just so proud of this squad and how hard they have all worked.”