ROCHELLE — Eight years have passed since the Rochelle Township High School varsity cheerleading team qualified for the IHSA State Championships. But after placing fourth out of 16 medium squads at the IHSA Bartonville (Limestone) Sectional this past Saturday, the purple and white are state-bound for the first time since the 2009-10 school year.
Rochelle scored 74.16 points to edge out Sandwich (73.20) and Peoria (Notre Dame) (73.02) for fourth place at the sectional competition. The girls and head coach Trish Rodeghero began practicing for their state-qualifying routine this past summer, and they’re more than happy to see their hard work and dedication result in a trip to the IHSA State Championships in Bloomington.
“It’s definitely a surreal feeling,” senior Teddi Hacaga said. “It shows how much this program has grown since my freshman year… We all want the same thing and we’re all shooting for the same goal. There’s a lot of connection and love for the sport that make it so easy for us to work together.”
The IHSA State Championships at Bloomington’s Grossinger Motors Arena will begin on Friday, Feb. 2 and run through Saturday, Feb. 3. Rochelle is one of 25 medium-sized squads aiming to take home this year’s state title, and the team’s first step will be earning a top-10 score during Friday’s portion of the championships.
Teams landing outside of the top 10 after Friday are eliminated from contention, and every point counts in competitive cheerleading. Even the slightest mistakes can force judges to deduct points from a team’s raw score, but the Rochelle girls are confident in both their routine and in themselves.
“I feel like we’re one of the better sideline teams out of our conference,” senior Mychaela Hurst said. “Going to state means a lot for our program, especially for Trish [Rodeghero] and how she runs the program. I don’t think it would be close to where it is today without her… Everybody is put on the team for a reason, and we’ve learned a lot about leadership.”
Rochelle’s success this season extends far beyond Saturday’s sectional performance. The purple and white took first place in the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference for the second consecutive school year, and in addition to winning their varsity competition at Rockford Guilford, the girls placed third at Belvidere and sixth at Crystal Lake Central.
There are 18 girls on this year’s varsity cheerleading team, and although there are many moving parts throughout their routines, the girls have quickly build chemistry through practice and repetition. Their strong relationships outside of cheerleading have also contributed to their team success.
“I really wanted to do this for my team and my coach,” senior Lydia Ankney said. “It was a feeling like no other when they called out name, and all of our hard work in the early mornings really made this worth it… It’s an honor to represent our school. We haven’t had any drama and we work together really well. We do everything to the best of our abilities.”
The IHSA State Championships will surely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the Rochelle girls, especially junior Teigan Young, whose older sister Katelynn cheered for Rochelle’s state-qualifying team eight years ago. Katelynn currently works alongside Rodeghero as Rochelle’s junior varsity cheerleading coach, and Teigan said her sister has dramatically impacted her cheerleading experience.
“We’re going to work really hard to get as far as we can,” she said. “We’ve worked so long on this and we’ve been so close for so many years… [Katelynn] was my coach all throughout Rochelle Junior Tackle cheerleading and I’ve always looked up to her and tried to be a good as she was.”