PeeWee Cheerleaders Tops in Country
Hillsborough Dukes PeeWee cheerleading squad repeat as national champs.
The first time might have been luck, but the second time showed it's pure skill.
For the second consecutive year, the Hillsborough Pop Warner PeeWee Cheerleading Squad came in first at the National Cheer Championships, held Tuesday in Walt Disney World. The 18-member squad, which is composed of fifth and sixth-grade-aged girls, beat 13 other teams from across the country to take the top spot.
"It was unbelievable," said Courtney Hudak, who cheered on the squad both years it won. "It was a shocker to win two years in a row."
"It was so cool," added Gabrielle Rivera, who also returned to the squad after the 2009 victory. "It felt really good. We worked really hard for it so I kind of expected it."
To participate in the competition, the squad needed to net first or second place at its regional competition in Trenton. The first-place finish during the November regional sent the girls to the nationals, according to head coach Kristen Mazuera.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Mazuera said. "All the girls are so happy. They worked so hard and are beside themselves. It wasn't a second past the announcer have the h-i in Hillsborough out of his mouth and they were already jumping around and cheering."
Squads competing at the championships perform a two-and-a-half minute routine for the judges. In Hillsborough's case, former high school cheerleader and Dukes coach Jennifer Fedak choreographed the routine.
"We almost laughed because she knows the girls so well,' Mazuera said. "The other coaches thought it was so hard."
That's when Mazuera and her coaching staff, including Fedak, Patty Levonaitis, Linda Hudak, and cheer commissioner Maria Szabo, step in. With two-hour long practices two to three times a week, the coaches stress the hard work needed to perfect a routine—and teach it as a life skill.
"We try to tell them that what you put in is what you get out of it and work hard," Mazuera said. "It seems to be working for them with the cheering. Hopefully, they'll take that with them."
With one 30-minute practice the day before the competition and a warm-up session before going on, the work leading up to Nationals makes the routine.
"That's what you get and then there's the warm-up," Mazuera said. "As coaches, we say, at that point, you either know it (the routine) or you don't."
The cheer squad roster is Chase Ballah, Ellen Guerra, Emily Hill, Courtney Hudak, Mia Jaderlund, Casey Kenny, Kelsey Kepniss, Rachael Levonaitis, Sam Levonaitis, Olivia Lewis, Marissa Londenberg, Marisa Mazuera, Brianne Nissel, Courtney Nissel, Allison Prugh, Gabrielle Rivera, Gianna Sabo and Kayla Shara.
For the girls on the team, it's about perfecting the routine and working with their coaches.
"It involves team work and listening to our coaches," Rivera said.
"We practiced really hard because we wanted to win again," Hudak said.