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ALBUQUERQUE — Makayla Etzel is like any competitive athlete - she wants to win.

But the senior captain for the Taos cheer team said Friday was a victory for every cheerleader, regardless of the school or the results, competing at the State Spirit Competition in The Pit. It had been two years since the event crowned state champions due to the pandemic, which forced the cancellation of the 2020 event. Etzel said she felt like an eighth grader all over again.

She embraced her inner middle schooler as if it was her first time at state.

"After everything we've been through - after not even knowing if we were going to get this [chance to compete again] - it's a feeling like no other," Etzel said. "It makes you cherish [the sport] more."