The Boaz High School cheerleading squad’s class of 2020 left its mark on the mat and in the classroom.
“These girls have had an amazing career at Boaz High School,” veteran BHS cheer coach Tiffany Rhoden said of Mary Ashley Milam, Zoe Ballentine, Sydney Watts, Zoie Patterson, Madisun Lyles and Maci Allen.
In 2019-20, the seniors led the Pirates to the school’s first AHSAA Super Regional title in the Class 5A competition. The squad went on to win the 2019 AHSAA Class 5A State championship, the third State title for the class of 2020.
“In addition, they were nationally ranked each year of their career,” Rhoden said.
In the fall semester, the Pirates extended their streak of UCA regional championships to seven. Overall, it was the program’s 27th regional title.
“This year [in February], they received a bronze medal, placing third at the National High School Cheerleading Championship in the super varsity non-tumbling division,” Rhoden said. “We were the only team representing the state of Alabama in that division.
“They did awesome in the competition. They executed their routines to the best of their ability, and I could not have been more proud of the way the girls represented our school system, community and state.”
Liberty Ranch from California finished first and Lakeland, Florida, second in the super varsity non-tumbling division. Boaz finished 2.5 points away from a national title.
“In 2019, where they performed an awesome routine, they finished in seventh place in the super varsity traditional division,” Rhoden said.
“In 2018, they were spectacular in competition and placed second in the nation in the super varsity traditional division.”
Allen will be attending the University of North Alabama in the fall, where she will pursue a nursing degree. She then plans to continue her education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and become a nurse practitioner.
Ballentine will be attending the University of Alabama in the fall, where she will pursue a law degree to become a criminal justice attorney.
Lyles will be attending Snead State Community College, where she will be a cheerleader. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University to pursue a degree in special education.
Milam will be attending the University of Alabama. She will be pursuing a degree in healthcare management on the pre-dental track. She then plans to open her own dental practice.
Patterson will be attending Snead State Community College, where she will be a cheerleader. She plans to transfer to Wallace State to pursue a degree in diagnostic imaging.
Watts will be attending Samford University in the fall, where she will be pursuing a degree in athletic training.
“Together, this senior class has received over $216,000 in scholarships,” Rhoden said. “I believe that speaks volumes about this group of girls. Not only were they spectacular leaders and athletes, but they were hardworking students in the classroom, and that is what truly matters.
“Hands down, this group of girls is one of the most goal-oriented and driven groups I have ever had. Not only were they serious in the classroom and gym, they knew how to have fun and they loved their teammates.
“I absolutely hate to say goodbye to my seniors, and in some ways I feel like COVID-19 robbed us of a lot of our time together, but we are so blessed our season had ended prior to school dismissing in March.
“Although I am so sad to see them go, I am also excited for them. They have their futures mapped out, and they are going to make fabulous healthcare workers, educators and lawyers. I have seen them time and time again face a challenge and be victorious.
“I have watched them fight to overcome many obstacles, and I know that fight and determination will continue through the uncertain days that lie ahead. It’s what Boaz girls do.
“I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be their coach. This group will hold a very special place in my heart forever.”
Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dee Anne Ashley established the BHS cheerleading program’s tradition of excellence during the 1980s.
She guided the Pirates to three national championships before retiring as head coach. Rhoden is one of her former cheerleaders.
Ashley’s daughter, Leah Milam, cheered for her in the early 1990s. Mary Ashley Milam became the third generation of their family to contribute to Boaz’s success. Leah Milam serves as Boaz’s assistant coach.
“Every year we hope that our seniors will make good leaders, and I didn’t know what this group would be like, but they really came on strong and just overly exceeded any expectations we had in that category, all of them did, and they’re going to be a hard group to lose,” Milam said.
Milam joined Rhoden in praising the seniors, and their teammates, for their performance in the 2020 National High School Cheerleading Championship.
“Cheerleading is a subjective sport,” Milam said. “We put everything out there we can possibly do, and it’s up to whether six people [judges] like you or they don’t. From a point and a half to two points is what separated the top three in nationals.
“The girls did exactly what they needed to do. They were awesome all year, and we couldn’t have asked anything more of them. They had a lot of adversity, but the girls made it work.”