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Newtown’s D14 cheerleading squad won the national title with a pair of strong routines before the judges inside Silver Spurs Arena, at the American Youth Cheer National Championships in Kissimmee, Fla., on Saturday and Sunday, December 9 and 10.
Newtown’s D14 team is one of 12 divisional teams from all over the country, including Chicago, Virginia, Florida, New Jersey, California, and Arizona. The top three teams from each region are invited to participate. In total there were 220 teams in the competition.
The girls arrived on Thursday to register and to have the judges review their routine. For the first time, the competition was a two-day event. The top five teams in each division from Saturday’s competition were asked to perform again on Sunday. They announced the top five in the D14 division on the jumbotron — they listed them from fifth to first and the Newtown cheerleaders, as the best performers, were called last.
“Now, we had to come back again on Sunday to keep our spot. There was tons of pressure — the girls were extremely nervous,” said Coach Diane McCabe, adding that the first-place team in each division takes home a jacket that reads “National Champions” on the back. “All the girls know about the jackets and the goal is to go home with them.”
The girls had 2:30 to show the judges what they can do, and certainly show a lot of talent and athleticism.
“They are judged on their stunting and pyramid, tumbling, crowd leading, and overall performance. Our routine includes numerous tumbling passes like double back handsprings and even a triple. A crowd favorite is our pike basket toss that the judges even raved about. The toe touch basket tosses also received high scores. Our stunt sequence maxes out the category with a twist up to an extension, then a liberty, scale, and arabesque combination with a twisting dismount,” McCabe said.
All of that in just two-and-a-half minutes. Newtown’s routine was anything but routine.
“They were amazing at nationals,” said McCabe, adding that the girls excelled under the spotlight, highlighted by their best performance of the year on Saturday. “It was amazing to watch just how far they’ve come in just a few months.”
The Newtown cheer squad, which has been practicing since the first week of August, and has a trio of first-year cheerleaders, competed at local, state, and regional competitions. Newtown was first in the regional competition to earn a spot in the national competition.
“We are so proud of all of our Newtown cheerleaders and grateful for the incredible support we receive from our community. These girls are true athletes and have worked so hard to earn the title of national champions,” said Melissa Gordon, vice president of cheer for the Newtown Youth Football and Cheer program.
“Watching these kids grow throughout the years, led by amazing volunteers, board members, coaches, and parents continues to amaze me. It is truly a gift and privilege to be involved in this program. Newtown Youth Football and Cheer prides itself on its commitment to provide a safe, fun, character-building program for our children and while it is not always easy, it is what makes these kids and this program successful. Congratulations to our D14 team for an amazing accomplishment, Newtown is proud of you, and we are proud to be from Newtown,” Gordon added.
Assistant coaches are Rhonda Timmons and Christine Calabrese, and demonstrators are Katie McCabe, McKenna Timmons, Grace Baker, and Heidi Alvarez. The cheerleaders are Cynthia Alvarez, Lola Araujo, Julia Calabrese, Vicky Chop, Mya Krasowski, Bridget Lovely, Shayna Millard, Ally Pavlicek, Annie Phelps, Madeline Richard, Leah Rojas, Gianna Routhier, Elle Sferruzzo, Lyndsey Tarlow, Kaylee Timmons, and Alexis Wasik.