For the fourth year in a row — and the school's first year as the RedHawks — South Albany High School's Cheer team won the state OSAA 5A Cheerleading title Saturday morning at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

The Santiam Christian Eagles squad brought home its first championship in the 1A/2A/3A division since 2004 under new coach Kathie Carley.

West Albany took third in the 5A division and Sweet Home was second in the 4A class.

Saturday was special for South Albany senior captain Jenna Levit, who earned her fourth state championship.

“Once a Rebel, always a Rebel," she said, "but it’s special to start off with something brand new and to win. It seems like I was a freshman yesterday. We have such a close bond.”

Levit said the state championship competition was intense, but “we had faith and trust in our team. I am very proud of everyone. I am glad we won, but I’m sad it’s over.”

She plans to major in criminal justice in college.

South Albany co-captains were Alyssa Marstall and Grace Sitton. Team members include Summer Ohling, Kara Marks, Madysen Jacob, Sabrina Luckenbach, Katie Tracy, Brianna Benham, Autumn Wilder, Alissa Welch and Erika Butzner.

South Albany Coach Courtney Marstall said this year’s team is extremely dedicated.

“The girls cheer football and basketball, two games a week during basketball season and then compete on Saturdays,” she said. “Several do both cheer and dance team and practice up to six hours per day.”

Formerly known as the Southern Belles, the squad now competes as South Albany Cheer and Dance.

“Five of the girls who won Saturday will compete at the state dance competition in three weeks,” Marstall said.

Marstall said the squad was judged on building skills, tumbling/jumping and overall.

“The team from Ridgeway High in Bend was second and West Albany was third,” she said. “West Albany recently came back to 5A from 6A and they beat Wilsonville, who took fourth. Wilsonville was second last year, so West Albany did a great job.”

Marstall has coached South Albany for six years.

“They put on an incredible performance,” she said. “They blew everyone out of the water. They are really good performers and they wanted this win badly."

There also was an added factor of pride.

“We have a new mascot and we wanted to bring home the RedHawks’ first state title,” she said. The girls really pushed hard to make this happen. They pride themselves on being one of the best programs at the school and in making the community proud of them. It’s truly a great group of kids.”

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“Santiam Christian won 11 championships before the 2004 season,” coach Carley said. “This group is extremely hardworking, dedicated and they have faith in each other and in God.”

Carley took over the program on an interim basis and work began in August.

“It’s a long season with optional summer practices,” she said. “We ended up with an extra week before state due to the snow. We thought that might cause problems, but actually, it gave us time to work on small details. It turned out to be an advantage for us.”

Carley was an Oregon State University cheerleader and credits her assistant coach, University of Oregon senior Livi Fisher, as a major asset.

“She is phenomenal, unbelievable,” Carley said. “We work together great as a team and she has a competitive cheer background. We had a plan and the girls had a goal to finish in the top three this year.”

Carley said the squad’s work ethic was outstanding.

“We never had a bad practice,” she praised.

Santiam Christian team members were: seniors Aly Vosburg, Megan Schaefer, Calista Braziel, Abby Abraham and Samantha Braukman; junior Gracie Krahn; sophomores Madison Smith, Krisarah Nygren, Lorin Devlin; and alternates Abigail Riedlinger and Ashley Miller. 

The West Albany Bulldogs included seniors Jasmine Kimball and Kendall Weir; juniors Erin Bliege, Hailey James, Lucy Kratka and Kaedyn Roberts; sophomores Julia Donner, Brooke Donner, Savannah Schneider and Anna Wooton; and freshmen Cassidy McFadden, Alexa McGowen and Sarah Anderson.

The Sweet Home Huskies included seniors Rylee Vasfaret, Hailey Wolfe, Nicole Grady; juniors McKenzie Wolfe, Mariah Harrington, Taylor Goodwin, Shelby Goodwin, Hailey Miller, Leaha McQueary, Courtnie Woodard; sophomores Kelly Ogden and Charisma Hardee; and freshmen Ava Royer and Megan Glover.

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Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.