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The Giant Center in Hershey will host the first PIAA championship event of the 2013-14 winter sports season when the squads take to the floor this weekend for the second annual PIAA competitive spirit championships.

The competition gets underway around 9 a.m. on Friday with 11 YAIAA teams participating in various divisions. This includes two local teams that won their respective District 3 championships, Dover in the Small Division, and New Oxford in the Co-ed Division.

Fresh off that district title, Dover coach Lisa Rupp said her team will be ready after missing out on reaching the finals last year.

“We were really on our game that day. We only beat the team by half a point,” she said of districts. “We are preparing (for states) the same. We have the same scorecard as last year. It’s one of those things where there’s more teams. We just have to be on our game and come with a good routine.”

Rupp likes how cohesive her group is. Unlike many other competitive squads, they also cheer at Eagles football and basketball games.

“They’re a pretty close-knit group and treat each other like they would sisters,” she said. “For this team it’s because they worked hard and pushed themselves. Their goal was to win districts. Being around all the teams was such a great experience they wanted to make it to states again."

Nearly 120 teams will be competing, which is an increase from last year when the event was held in one day at the Hersheypark Arena. The growth of the sport is substantial.

“This year at the Giant Center will be nice. It’s a bigger arena for everybody,” said Central York competitive spirit coach Laura Trimmer. “I think last year we only had four or five from the county that were invited, that’s a big difference. I went to the state finals last year and there were probably half as many teams.”

Routines are two and a half minutes in length and must include a cheer. The top 25% of teams will reach Saturday’s finals automatically, the next 25% will compete in the semifinals.

Central will join Dallastown and Spring Grove in the medium (16-20 members) division, Red Lion and South Western will represent the YAIAA in the co-ed division. Littlestown, Northeastern, York Catholic and William Penn, along with Dover, round out the league’s participants in the small (less than 15) squad division.

“This is the first year they are having co-ed. We didn’t have many co-ed teams across the state in the past,” Trimmer said. “A lot more guys are getting involved because they realize they can go on to college and cheer.”

The full list of competing teams and their performance times for Friday can be found here. Click here to view the rules.

Of note, New Oxford topped all teams, across all divisions, with its score of 95.67 at the district championships.

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