The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame ushered in its Class of 2020 on Jan. 26, which includes the Ozark High School cheerleading program.
The Tigers are the first cheerleading program to be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
The Ozark High School cheerleading program has been one of the most successful in the state in competitions. The squads won seven state championships (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2015, 2018) as they competed in either Class 4 or Class 5. Ozark earned state runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2014. It also placed third in 2013. Through the years, several Ozark cheerleaders have gone on to cheer in college.
“Ozark Cheer has set the bar for high school cheer in this area, if not the state,” Ozark High School Athletic Director Yancey Little said. “The success wouldn’t be possible without the coaches, dedicated athletes and parents. They put a lot of time, money and effort in. And it pays off because Ozark finishes in the top year after year.”
The program dates back to 1979 with coach Nita Jackson. In 1984, Ozark began competing under coach Kim Birkenbaugh. Since 1994, coaches have included Darryl Lyons, Kristi Romines, Jeanine Atwell, Jennifer Clark and Tess Keller. Clark was on staff for 11 years, including eight years as head coach. Keller took the reins in spring 2019.
This is the second Ozark High School sports program inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, as the Ozark baseball program was inducted in 2018. Longtime Ozark baseball coach Mike Essick was inducted that same year.
Ozark cheerleaders past and present were celebrated along with big names including Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, St. Louis Cardinals standout Terry Pendleton, former Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, University of Missouri and NFL defensive lineman Justin Smith and former Missouri State University pitcher Brad Ziegler, who pitched for 11 Major League Baseball seasons.