McDowell’s Varsity Competitive Cheer team finished 8th at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National Competition Feb. 8 through Feb. 12 in Orlando.
Before going to Nationals, the team frist went to the PIAA State Competition. They became the first District 10 team ever to win the State competition for competitive cheer, since the competition began in 2012. The 24-member team traveled to Hershey, Pa., to compete in the state competition on Jan. 21 as did five other teams from District 10. The team made it past the preliminary rounds and went on to compete in the championship round along with six other teams from across the state. McDowell came in first by 9 points.
To qualify for the state competition, the team had to win PIAA districts which took place at McDowell Dec. 20 and 21.
The coach of the team, Kathy Wiltse, said in an article on goerie.com that McDowell’s state title was “five years in the making.” The PIAA State competition was established five years ago, and this is the first time anyone in McDowell’s district has won. They went to the competition last year and placed third in the state.
This year their hard work, practicing three times a week, three hours a day, led them all the way to the national competition.
When the team first walked into the State level competition at Hershey Giant Center they felt “nervous but excited at the same time,” said Natalie Fabrizio, a senior on the team. “The arena was huge and we knew that in just a couple hours we would be performing in front of hundreds of people.”
After the preliminary rounds, they were in first, getting them to the finals. “We didn’t want to have the wrong mindset and get too confident in ourselves,” said Fabrizio. This mindset paid off as they ended up on top.
This dedicated group of students even made it back in time and cheer for the McDowell boys varsity basketball team’s game against Fort LeBoeuf that same night, where the basketball players and fans stopped the action to welcome them home.
As the team prepared to travel to Florida for the national competition, Wiltse said they were heading to the “biggest and most prestigious high school cheer competition in the world.”
The team’s 8th place finish at the national meet came after the team was docked 2 points when Trevor Smith’s shoulder injury hindered the routine. He recovered the stunt, but could not do one of his later moves. They were then given a secondary opportunity to perform, despite the injury, where they ended up 8th in their division.
Despite this setback Wiltse said this was “the most unified team [she’s] ever coached.” They also finished six places higher than their 14th place finish last year, even with the injury.
As featured in the February 2017 edition of The Trojan Voice