Months of practice and hard work paid off for members of the Fort Dodge Senior High competition cheerleading squad last week.
The squad received first place out of six teams participating in the coed division at the Iowa State Cheerleading Championships Nov. 3.
They celebrated their accomplishments Thursday with a surprise celebration hosted by FDSH cheer parents.
The squad held a practice Thursday afternoon in the high school gymnasium to prepare for a performance before the entire FDSH student body that will take place this afternoon while parents set up tables of food. They were surprised by their parents as they were led into the cafeteria by their coaches following practice.
"They've been practicing since August," said Kari Prescott, mother of a FDSH cheerleader. "They practice for several hours on top of regular cheer practices. They worked really hard for this."
It's a huge reward for us," said senior cheer squad member Nichole Prelip. "It really makes you feel like you are accomplished."
The squad's goal was to do as well as they possibly could at state, but did not specifically set their sights on No. 1.
"We were just shooting for the best we could do," said Ashley McBride, also a senior on the squad. "We didn't go in expecting to be No. 1. We just went to do our best."
The squad faced a few challenges just days before taking center stage at state competition, losing two members to injury and filling their vacancies with alternate members.
"We still really came together as a team," McBride said. "We lost two people two days before; we had to work even harder to make those changes after we had everything all set and ready.
Junior Grant Hendrix, a second-year member of the competition squad, said it was more of a challenge this year.
"It was harder this year," he said. " I had to learn some of the dance motions, so that wasn't like last year."
'Winning it all, that's really the icing on the cake," said McBride.