If there's a message for people in McCracken County so far in 2014 it's probably this: Never sell our kids short.
There was considerable excitement earlier this year when Paducah Tilghman's "Band of Blue" brought back a Grand National Champion trophy, along with a slew of other awards, from the Gator Bowl competition in Jacksonville. The honor also made the band a featured part of the halftime show for that nationally televised football event.
Last week another group of McCracken County students - the McCracken County Mustangs coed cheerleading team - competed for the first time as a team at the Universal Cheerleading Association's prestigious national competition at Disney World in Orlando. That squad brought home a national championship of their own.
While the McCracken County team started with a strong base from a highly successful Reidland High School competitive program - Reidland, Heath and Lone Oak high schools merged to form McCracken County High School last fall - the 30-member team faced the challenge of meshing talent from all three schools, including 16 members who had never been in national competition.
As a larger school they also faced a step up in class to the medium varsity coed division, where they were one of 17 teams from across the nation to compete. They also faced the pressure of an elimination round (which they also won) that pared the 17 teams to eight finalists.
Added to all of that was the not-insignificant pressure of having to perform in front of a national television audience. They handled it with aplomb.
It's hard to overstate the magnitude of the accomplishments by both the Tilghman and McCracken County groups. They are, after all, still teenagers who hail from a small town most Americans have probably never heard of. For those young people to go to national competitions featuring better-known programs from better-known places and win it all is something the community should and we believe does take great pride in. It says great things about the quality of our young people, their values, courage and work ethic. It is a complement to them first and foremost, but also to the adults who coach them, teach them and inspire them in their daily lives.
We can also tell you as newspaper types who frequent local high school events that if you do get an opportunity to see the Tilghman band or the Mustangs competitive squad perform, don't miss it. They are champions for a reason, and their programs are remarkable.
Congratulations again to the McCracken County competitive cheerleading team. We're confident this is just the start of what will be a long tradition of success.