Last year was the first time Montgomery High School received a bid to compete at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando.
This year, not only did the varsity qualify, the junior varsity squad also qualified.
And, in the semi-final round at ESPN Wide World of Sports, the JV squad achieved another first – a berth into the final competition.
Both squads performed their best routines of the year with no falls or major errors at the competition held Feb. 11 and 12.
The varsity squad, consisting mostly of seniors who cap off their four-year careers, vied against some of the best teams in the nation. The routine opened with a sky-high toss of a squad member into the air and included team tumbling and intricate stunts.
The JV team performed in the non-tumbling division, which required stunts to be of high difficulty, and included a “helicopter,” where girls twirl 180 degrees in the air. The JV earned a trophy as one of the top 10 teams in the nation for their division.
The JV also won a regional competition at Hofstra in December that earned them the bid for nationals.
Both teams also attended special UCA nights at the parks and bonded at a team dinner at Planet Hollywood.
“I could not have asked for anything more from this group of girls,” said Elizabeth Wittmann, the varsity coach.
Tiffany Riley, JV coach, added: “It was exciting to get to nationals – and to move on to finals was a reward for our hard work during the year.”
Nationals capped off a big year for the team which, in addition to competing on their own, cheered for football, basketball and wrestling. As far as community service, the team participating in walks for autism, donated pasta to the food bank and raised more than $2,000 for the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center.
To earn the money for nationals, squad members sold flowers, worked a pancake breakfast, hosted a Zumba event, bagged groceries at ShopRite and hosted a cheerleading clinic. Additionally, the team received the support of local businesses including a major corporate sponsorship from Johnson & Johnson’s Clean and Clear.
The team wore shirts donated to them by Clean and Clear to the national competition.
Individual members of the Montgomery High School team earned honors throughout the year. Emily Campeas and Jennifer Cheslock were named to the New Jersey Cheer Coaches and Dance Association’s All-State team and were honored at a breakfast and at the state cheer competition. Freshman varsity member Gabrielle Louis-Charles was named second team Skyland Conference. At the NCA summer camp, Campeas, Cheslock, Elizabeth Sohmer and Alayna Treene were singled out as camp All-Americans, which qualified them to perform in London.