So what do I know about cheerleading (excuse me, competitive spirit)?

Well, my sister was a cheerleader, and supposedly the only one on the team who could do a Russian split, which makes my groin hurt just thinking about it. But that was a long time ago.

Still, as it turns out, maybe that's not all I know.

Since someone who shall remain nameless (he's bald, has a beard, hunts, and lives in Trevorton) decided I would be just the person to cover the District 4 cheerleading competition Saturday at Shamokin Area High School, now that the PIAA has decided cheerleading (excuse me, competitive spirit) is a sport, I decided I would familiarize myself with the judging criteria and test my skills against that of the three actual judges from the Universal Cheerleaders Association.

Guess what? I didn't do half bad.

Teams were judged on crowd leading and skill/execution. The maximum score a team can get in crowd leading is 60 points, based on crowd-effective material, effective use of signs, poms or megaphones, effective use of motions to lead the crowd, voice and pace, energy and inflection, effective use of skills to lead the crowd, formations and spacing, and crowd-leading impression, all of which could be given a certain amount of points.

The maximum score for skill/execution judging is 40 points, based on skills execution (stunts, tumbling, jumps, etc.), skills difficulty, motions/dance technique and overall choreography, visual appeal and image.

A total maximum score is 100 points. The scores of the three judges were combined for the total score. Milton won the small varsity division, the only one in which there was actual competition (Jersey Shore and North Penn were lone participants in the medium varsity and co-ed varsity divisions, respectively) with 212 points, followed by Southern Columbia (198) and Hughesville (194).

I purposely didn't judge Southern or Shamokin, our local teams, but I scored all the others and wasn't too far off the mark.

If you divide the teams' final totals by three, Milton's score is 70.7, and I gave the Black Panthers 78. Hughesville's actual score would be 64.7, and I gave the Spartans an 85, with Sayre my third-place team in the small varsity division at 73. Their actual total was 139.5, or 46.5 when divided by three.

It's pretty apparent that I was generous with points compared to the actual judges, who obviously know more of the nuances to look for. I contented myself with looking for obvious slipups such as falls, drops and failing to understand words of cheers. Or in Shamokin's case, even though I wasn't scoring the Indians, holding the sign with the word purple on it, upside down.

My best team overall was Jersey Shore, with an 88, and the judges gave the Bulldogs 176.5 points, or 58.8 apiece.

If you take the judges' overall standings, minus Southern and Shamokin, they show Milton, Hughesville, Jersey Shore, North Penn, Canton, Sayre and Troy. Mine would be Jersey Shore, Hughesville, Milton, North Penn, Sayre, Canton and Troy.

A couple of other observations:

* Based on fan turnout, look for more teams to enter district competition in the next few years. Parents, grandparents and boyfriends were obvious attendees.

* Southern Columbia coach Kenda Roth, whose Tigers finished second behind Milton and will compete at the state tournament, as will Hughesville, in the small varsity division, would like to see more than one sanctioning body involved in the scoring because different teams pattern their routines according to different organizations' rules.

* It seems unfair that teams performed by alphabetical order. Canton, the first team to perform, was essentially setting the baseline score for all the other routines by being first. It's always harder to go first in judged events. It would be fairer for teams to draw their spots out of a hat, or something similar, the day of the event.

* Finally, in case anyone doubts it was an official District 4 event, the ubiqitous Bob Apple was there selling T-shirts and other district merchandise.

(Souders is a sports writer for The News-Item)