HEISER: Red Lion's co-ed dynasty continues its reign at District 3 Spirit Championships
There’s a York County high school sports dynasty that has posted some truly impressive accomplishments over the past dozen years.
Here are just some of the team’s achievements during that span: seven York-Adams League titles, four District 3 championships, seven state finalist appearances, a state runner-up finish in 2016 and a ninth-place national finish in 2020.
Still, the team has largely flown under the radar.
Well, we’re going to try to remedy that.
That’s because the honors earned by the Red Lion High School co-ed competitive spirit team are worthy of recognition.
Over the weekend at Central Dauphin East High School, the Lions won the District 3 co-ed championship for a third consecutive season and the fourth time in five years. Red Lion finished with 76.6 points, which was more than four points better than second-place Schuylkill Valley (72.4 points).
The team, captained by Margaux Rentzel, features 13 girls and two boys and is under the direction of first-year head coach Madeline Clark.
Clark was a Red Lion cheerleader from 2009-2012 under former Lions head coach Ashleigh Reinert, who helped build the spirit program into a league and district power during her 14 years at the helm. Clark is assisted by Emily Zelger, Sammi Sprenkle and Brad Irrizarry, who also all cheered under Reinert.
“The competition team has changed a lot in the last 11 years,” Clark said. “There were years with 20-plus kids and years with only 11, but one thing that remains consistent is the desire to be better than they were the year before.”
That desire paid off in another district crown over the weekend — a goal that was very important to the team, Clark said.
“Our team had an intense drive to win because they knew that another district title would put them at their third in a row, and fourth overall which made them the winningest team in Red Lion school history. Knowing that they could set a school record, combined with the heart and passion that they put into the sport, was a huge driving force behind this win.”
Overcoming COVID hurdles: Clark said the road to the latest championship was filled with pandemic-filled hurdles.
“This season was anything but easy with COVID putting a lot of barriers in our way, but these kids are extremely resilient and didn't let anything hold them back,” she said. “They knew they had to find a way to bring home another district title, and as coaches we are incredibly proud of how hard they've worked this year. As coaches, we're happy to be able to uphold the legacy that coach Reinert and Coach Angie Masser left for us, and to continue building our program for future RL cheerleaders.”
Season isn't over: The season isn’t over for Red Lion.
The team won’t be able to add another league championship to its resume. Because of the pandemic, league championships won’t be held this year.
The Lions have, however, advanced to the PIAA state championships and will get to perform on the big stage at the Giant Center in Hershey on Saturday, April 10.
The other division winners at the district event were Cumberland Valley (large school) and Central Dauphin East (small school).
Other local finishers: Central York also qualified for the state meet by virtue of the Panthers’ second-place finish in the small-school division.
The other Y-A finishers at the district meet were: New Oxford (third, co-ed), Eastern York (fourth, co-ed), Dallastown (fourth, small school), West York (fifth, small school), Northeastern (eighth, small school) and South Western (10th, small school).
This year, the PIAA changed the qualifying format by separating PIAA member schools into Class 3-A for the largest 50% of schools and Class 2-A for the smaller 50%. State qualifiers will be grouped by school classification rather than just squad size. As a result, the PIAA eliminated the medium division and reduced the overall number of qualifiers to the state championships. At the state meet, Central York will compete in the 3-A level.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.