The Brownstown High School cheerleading squad is proof positive that perseverance pays off.
Early in the school year, the Bombers set an ambitious goal of advancing to the 2008 Illinois Cheerleading Coaches Association state finals.
But it looked like they might not even get a chance to compete in the preliminary competition necessary to qualify for state, as the first two regionals the Bombers signed up for were cancelled.
Undeterred, the Bombers finally found a venue to showcase their talents at the Highland Regional.
The judges were impressed, as Brownstown finished in first place, qualifying for the state tournament, held last weekend in Springfield.
The Bombers left for state Friday morning not knowing what to expect.
They came back to town with a police escort and a state-championship trophy in hand.
"When they announced it, all the girls were jumping up and down and crying," said Bombers coach Deb Hunter, whose team competed in the game-cheer division of the tournament. "It was an exciting day."
Brownstown was one of the first teams to compete Saturday morning, adding to their understandable nervousness.
"We didn't really know what to expect," Hunter said. "It's a lot of pressure."
Still, the Bombers were confident in their ability to nail a routine they had been perfecting for months. And they did just that.
"The girls came off the floor very excited," said Hunter, whose team performed a longer and more elaborate version of a cheer one might see during a timeout at a basketball game. "They knew they had done what they needed to do.
"We tried to incorporate as many hand motions and jumps as we could to make it more impressive," Hunter added.
But the hardest part of the competition was yet to come - the waiting.
"They didn't tell us anything between 10 (a.m.) and 5 (p.m.)," Hunter said. "It was just a waiting game."
Finally, two teams were called to the floor to be honored. But only one was going to go home with the championship trophy.
Turns out, the Bombers were that team.
Hunter said she wasn't surprised her team brought home a state championship trophy. All the Bombers needed was a chance.
"We always had that thought they could do well at state, because the girls do work hard and they do a good job," Hunter said. "I think they were just determined.
"They were just like, 'This is our year and we're going to do it.'"
The Bombers returned home to a hero's welcome, as three firetrucks, the county sheriff and the Brownstown city police officer escorted the team back to Brownstown and on to the Bomber boys basketball game at St. Elmo.
The St. Elmo administration was prepared for the state champ's conquering entrance, as the team was introduced to the applause of a capacity crowd.
"I was very impressed with St. Elmo," Hunter said. "They called and wanted to know if it'd be OK if the girls entered the floor as they announced the accomplishment. It was awesome."
In addition to their state and Highland Regional titles, the Bombers also added a regional title at Edwardsville to their resume earlier in the year.