The Shaler Area girls’ competitive cheerleading squad placed 15th at the National High School Cheerleading Championships and second in Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, Florida on February 6 and 7.
In the National competition, the squad competed in the medium division, a squad consisting of 12 to 16 girls, against 56 teams from around the country. In the World competition, the team went against nine teams in the same division from around the world. Both competitions are high level and only the best squads make it.
In order to qualify for Nationals, the team was required to get a bid, which is a payment from the competition organization in order to compete in a higher level competition, at a regional competition. In November, the squad competed in their first competition in Dayton, Ohio where the team received a National bid.
Phyllis Schatz, head coach of the team, said at a regional competition there may be up to 20 teams competing for only three to four bids.
“It’s not an easy thing to do. You have all of these teams in the US that try to get there, then the best of the best are the ones that get to Florida,” Schatz said.
Despite finishing 15th in the nation, the squad was able to qualify for Worlds because of the performance of the team last year. In order to qualify for Worlds, the team has to place the previous year.
Schatz was very confident in her team before the competition started because of how much she has seen them bond throughout the season.
“I’m always confident in their skills, but on any given day you have no idea what’s going to happen out on that floor so you’re nervous,” Schatz said. “As each element hits, then you breathe a little bit easier. So as you’re going through the routine, which is extremely difficult, [as a coach] you’re always nervous even though you’re confident in their skills.”
The girls started preparing over the summer to be a strong team and receive a bid to Nationals. After practicing and spending so much time together, the squad has grown stronger on and off of the mat.
Taylor Laffey, a senior captain, agreed that this season was full of growth for her team.
“Everyone [especially the underclassmen] learned that just because of past experiences, nothing is just given to you,” Laffey said. “The current sophomores had an incredible freshmen season and never really experienced hardships, so now I think they will work even harder for next season.”
Schatz was extremely proud of the team and loved the enthusiasm they showed.
“They went into each challenge enthusiastically trying to overcome any obstacles and they didn’t give up,” Schatz said. “I think that’s the thing I love most about them. They worked very hard. No one knows the amount of time and energy that goes into this and I was just so proud of them.”