JACKSON TWP — No one can say Seneca Valley Junior Football and Cheer coach Rachel Conrad doesn't know her team.
In her sixth year as coach of the competitive cheering squad, Conrad decided to petition the organization's board to allow the team to compete in the state championships.
“We've never done that before,” Conrad said of competing at states. “Our season is always over around the beginning of November and the states aren't until two weeks later.
“But this year, this team ... It won every competition it entered and I felt like these girls deserved a chance.”
The board agreed and the fifth-sixth grade team — competing in the junior division — took full advantage. Seneca Valley brought home the state title.
“Undefeated. These girls never lost a competition all year. That's unheard of,” Conrad said.
The team won competitions at New Brighton, Beaver Local (Ohio), its own tourney at home, Blackhawk and East Allegheny before winning the state tourney in Indiana.
In four of those events, Seneca Valley was named grand champion (highest score in the entire competition).
“I've had this same group of girls over the past four years,” Conrad said. “They're tireless. Their desire to improve is special. We have 125 girls in the program and they've been truly special.”
Over the past four years, Seneca Valley has finished in first place 20 times and in second place on four occasions. It has never been lower than second.
Next year, 16 of the girls will move up to the junior high team. Conrad, whose daughter Madie is moving up, will step down as fifth-sixth grade coach and join them.
Heather Bernhard was Conrad's assistant coach.
The Seneca Valley third-fourth grade cheering unit placed third at the state competition. Stephanie Maxwell is head coach with Lindsay Turcovsky as her assistant.
Third-fourth grade team members were Carsyn Broglie, Finley Davis, Maya Julian, Addyson Kaye, Leah Maxwell, Jazelle Miller, Elaina Pezzuti, Monique Polas, Payton Shields, Aubrey Sutherland, Danica Turcovsky, Kate Vislosky, Madison Voynik, Brooklyn Wiley, Hayden Wilkerson, Ellie Wokutch and Leah Wokutch.
Stefanie Burgh is the cheer coordinator of the entire association.