With teams from all over the country at the Cheersport Nationals last weekend in Atlanta, a team from Atoka was not really expected to make a lot of noise.
But when the national champions in various classes were announced Sunday night, the Headliners, a cheer squad based out of Famous Cheer gym in Atoka, were on the list.
“We were all freaking out,” said Kayla Hilleary, the squad's 16-year-old captain who attends Brighton High School. “They didn't call our name for second, then they called us for first. We all went crazy.”
The Headliners is a co-ed team made up of 24 members between the ages of 11 and 19.
They have been to several competitions and have won each one of them. But last weekend's event was by far the largest and most prestigious.
There were approximately 60,000 spectators and 27,000 cheerleaders at the event. The Headliners beat out 14 other teams in its classification to win the title and were the first team from Tipton County to ever compete there.
“I figured we'd do well,” said Steve Henderson, the team's coach and co-owner of Famous Cheer. “But there were so many teams there and so much talent, I had no clue we'd finish first … People couldn't believe we won. We were definitely the underdog.”
Hilleary said a lot of people were surprised by her team's success.
“We were in sixth after day one, then we went to first,” Hilleary said. “It's a huge competition with thousands of teams. Being from Tipton County, I think a lot of people were surprised that we would win something that big.”
“I think a lot of people were shocked,” Henderson said. “This puts Tipton County on the map.”