One split-second mistake. That's all it takes to keep a team from winning a state championship.
Three Bi-City area schools learned that lesson the hard way Saturday at the Georgia High School Association Competitive Cheerleading Championships at the Columbus Civic Center.
Columbus, Brookstone and Northside all fell victim to bobbles, and as a result had to settle for finishes in fourth place, the top six and outside the top six in their respective classes.
Columbus High -- which had placed second each of the last two years after winning a state title in 2010 -- had to qualify for Saturday's finals by placing in the top eight in Friday's sectionals. The Blue Devils took second in the sectional round and improved upon that performance Saturday, with only one slightly missed landing on a tumbling pass and a premature comedown on a stunt blemishing an otherwise excellent performance.
"I felt like we did awesome," said Columbus head coach Merrimore McDonald. "After the routine, I felt like we should be up there. The premature comedown was a couple of counts early, but it didn't hurt us as much as a full drop would have. We most definitely did better than we did (Friday). There was a lot more energy and enthusiasm in our performance. I felt like the girls really took it and went out there and put it all out on the floor."
Those slight miscues ended up costing the Blue Devils, as they finished fourth in Class AAAA behind Veterans -- which defended its Class AAAA title from 2012 -- region rival Carrollton and South Effingham.
"Those mistakes are what put us where we finished," said McDonald. "But that's part of the game. On this stage, it really is anybody's day. We had some kids who were injured, but they went out there and competed and that's all I can ask. What we did today just wasn't good enough."
Brookstone came into Saturday's finals on the heels of a second-place finish in Friday's sectionals and the Cougars looked fairly solid early on in their routine, managing to recover from a couple of bobbles on their stunts. However, a full-fledged fall on one of its last stunts killed Brookstone's title chances and forced it to settle for a top-six finish. However, head coach Alison McGregor was far from disappointed in her team's effort.
"From the start of this season, this team has faced so much adversity," said McGregor. "We normally have 16 girls on the floor and this year we only had 11. We also had a lot of injuries as the year went along. I felt like we had a great routine going and I hate that the pyramid came down. But we still had an unbelievable season, especially with the challenges we faced. I couldn't be more proud of them, pyramid or not. I'm disappointed for them, but not in them."
Mount Paran Christian won the Class A Private division title, with Savannah Christian, Calvary Day and Hebron Christian rounding out the top four.
Northside finished in the top six in Class AAAAA in 2012 and was third in 2011, but the Patriots barely made Saturday's final after finishing seventh in Friday's sectional after a fall and some other miscues in their routine. Northside stepped up its game Saturday, but still struggled with its balance on some of its stunts, preventing the Patriots from recording at least another top-six finish in an especially tough Class AAAAA race.
"What we've been stressing the whole season is to fight through adversity and makes things work and that's what we need today," said Northside coach Jessica Smart. "We were young this season with a lot of injuries, but in the end, we pulled through and made me proud. I sure thought we should've been in the top six. We gave our best performance all season and that's all you can ask for. We peaked today and that's what we've been waiting for."
The Class AAAAA state championship was won by McIntosh, with Houston County coming in second, Effingham County getting third and Lee County took home fourth.
In Class AA, Region 7-AA rivals Calhoun and Coosa swept the top two places in a reversal of their finishes from 2012. Screven County came in third and Bremen rounded out the top four. In Class AAA, Pierce County defended its title from 2012 with another state championship, followed by Cartersville, Central-Carroll and North Oconee.
Lambert won the Class AAAAAA championship, with Johns Creek taking second, West Forsyth third and Lassiter rounding out the top four. The Class A Public state title went to Commerce, followed by Trion, Hawkinsville and Lincoln County.