2023 NCHSAA Cheerleading Invitational

NCHSAA hosts 21st Annual Cheerleading Invitational

RALEIGH – For the second year in a row and for the fifth time in the history of the event, the Cardinal Gibbons Crusaders won the Carolina Cup at the North Carolina High School Association’s State Cheerleading Invitational. The Carolina Cup is awarded to the top varsity team in the competition regardless of division.

Also, for the second year in a row, the Weddington Warriors won the Tar Heel Trophy, which goes to the best-performing team in the Game Day Division. The Game Day Division was introduced in 2021 when West Forsyth won the first Tar Heel Trophy.

Full results are available here.

The 2023 event was the 21st Invitational hosted by the Association, as the inaugural event was held in 2003. This year’s event was produced by All Day Cheerleading, a Shelby, N.C.-based small business celebrating its 20th anniversary of producing cheer events across the region. 

NCHSAA/Cheersounds Scholarship Winners


Lyla Bullard (West Columbus) & Annika Watt (Union Academy)

1A        Annika Watt                      from                        Union Academy

Annika Watt is a senior cheerleader at Union Academy in Monroe. She is an avid advocate for those who don’t always have a voice or the ability to stand up for themselves. Annika takes pride in volunteering and helping at her local community shelter. Annika is also the Editor-in-chief of the school Yearbook and a part of the school leadership team that organizes freshman orientation. After graduating, she plans to study nursing at a four-year university, where she hopes to focus on pediatrics. The medical field has always been an interest of hers and knows it will challenge her to grow and give her the ability to serve others for a lifetime.

1A        Lyla Bullard                     from                          West Columbus High School

Lyla Bullard is a senior cheerleader at West Columbus High School in Cerro Gordo. Throughout high school, she actively served her community despite COVID-19 restrictions. Her involvement included volunteering in the FFA chapter’s annual steak plate sale, mini cheer camp, participating in breast cancer awareness activities, and engaging in tutoring sessions. Cheerleading taught her how to do everything with pride and integrity and allowed her to find confidence in being an effective leader. After graduating, Lyla hopes to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study biology on a pre-med track. Her longtime goal has been to become an orthopedic surgeon one day.


Sara Lewis (Goldsboro) & Madison Waugh (East Gaston)

2A        Sara Lewis                        from                         Goldsboro High School

Sara is a senior cheerleader representing Goldsboro High School in Wayne County. She demonstrates a strong commitment to her community through engaging in community service as a Carolina Jr. Cotillions Marshal, a participant in the Goldsboro Mayor’s Youth Council, Wayne Community College Ambassador, and Wayne County Agricultural Junior Fair Board member. While a member of Wayne School of Engineering, cheering for Goldsboro has provided her with a unique opportunity to foster relationships with students at both schools, serving as a positive role model and boosting school spirit. Through cheerleading, she has developed essential life skills including effective communication, leadership, and team building, ultimately enhancing her self-confidence and community outreach involvement. Sara plans to attend East Carolina University and obtain a B.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences, with aspirations of becoming a speech language pathologist.

2A        Madison Waugh             from                         East Gaston High School

Madison Waugh is a senior cheerleader at East Gaston High School in Mount Holly. Throughout high school, she has actively engaged in community service, including participation in Commissioner’s School of Excellence, fulfilling Beta Club and National Honor Society service requirements, and earning a CNA certification through Nurse Aide 1 courses. This year, she has continued her dedication to school and community by joining the National Technical Honor Society and was elected as a student body representative. Cheerleading has taught her valuable lessons she will cherish for a lifetime, always striving to ensure everyone knows the importance and vitality of their roles on and off the mat. After graduation she plans to study nursing at a four-year university with aspirations of becoming a nurse anesthetist.


Aniyah Hancock (Currituck County) & Ana Smith (Oak Grove)

3A        Ana Smith                        from                          Oak Grove High School

Ana Smith is a senior cheerleader at Oak Grove High School in Midway. Throughout high school, she has actively contributed to her community through programs like Angels in Blue with the Police Department, helping families in need. Engaging in various leadership roles, including Class Secretary, Model UN Communications Director, FBLA member, and National Honor Society VP. Additionally, her involvement in cheer has fostered personal and leadership development, emphasizing unwavering support for her athletic department. Cheer has been a place for her to grow as a person and leader through the incredible experiences she’s had. Supporting her teams, no matter what, win or lose. After graduating she plans to attend and cheer for Davidson College pending acceptance, with aspirations of one day working in marketing in the fashion industry.

3A        Aniyah Hancock             from                          Currituck County High School

Aniyah is a senior cheerleader at Currituck County High School in Barco. She has demonstrated a commitment to service and school unity by engaging with the Beta Club, the National English Honor Society, contributing to an animal shelter, and actively participating in various events like cheer competitions and elementary festivals. Cheerleading has played a pivotal role in developing her confidence, leadership, and communication skills while fostering relationships with athletes from all different teams. She also serves as a rec cheer coach for flag football. With plans to focus her university studies on interior design after graduation, she continues to integrate her passion for cheer and community service into her academic and personal pursuits.


Sydney Johnston (Marvin Ridge) & Abigail Plaisted (Cox Mill)

4A        Abigail Plaisted                from                        Cox Mill High School

Abigail Plaisted is a senior cheerleader at Cox Mill High School in Concord. Through the camaraderie of her cheer squad, she has cultivated a strong sense of self-worth and a profound feeling of belonging. They have built a tight-knit community and always strive to lift each other up through thick and thin. Outside of cheerleading, she serves as Student council president, which has allowed her to not only lead but make a tangible difference in her community. With her council, they have leveraged their platform to address pressing issues in the local community such as food insecurity and support for survivors of domestic abuse. After graduating, she plans to pursue a degree in social media marketing and advertising at a four-year university. 

4A        Sydney Johnston             from                         Marvin Ridge High School

Sydney Johnston is a senior cheerleader at Marvin Ridge High School in Waxhaw. Her commitment to community service includes volunteering as a coach assistant for middle school cheer, providing meals for those facing food insecurity, volunteering at a hospital ER, and contributing to a Migrant Farm Workers Health Clinic. Engaging in Beta Club and National Society, along with tutoring and serving as an Honors Chemistry TA, she demonstrates a strong dedication to academics. Cheerleading is integral to her identity, providing invaluable life lessons in friendship, teamwork, and resiliency. Her participation in worlds teams has further enhanced her confidence, leadership skills, and understanding the commitment required in the face of adversity. After graduating, she plans to attend a four-year university.