Shaler Area competitive cheerleaders head to World, National Championships
Friday, January 17, 2020 | 12:01 AM
The Shaler Area Competitive Cheerleading squad is ready to take on the world’s best cheerleaders Feb. 7 through 9 at the Walt Disney World Resort.
The cheerleaders are heading to Orlando for the World School Cheerleading Championships and Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship.
The team of 15 will compete in the medium varsity division at both championships.
In order to qualify for Worlds, squads have to place in the top three during last year’s Worlds competition or in the top 10 at Nationals.
“We have always been in the top three (at Worlds),” co-coach Phyllis Schatz said. “We won Worlds in 2013 and again in 2017.” The International Cheer Union founded the competition in 2012.
The squad will challenge 10 teams at Worlds. They will only perform their routines once.
Schatz estimates the squad will compete against 60 other teams at Nationals during a series of elimination rounds. A crowd of approximately 1,500 typically attends finals.
Co-captain and senior Mallory Robinson said she and her teammates get nervous backstage while warming up.
“But as soon as you hit the mat, like a lot of us say, you just go into autopilot, and just do the routine. And it’s a lot of fun when you get out there, but before you get out there, it’s really nerve-wracking.”
Schatz said the 2-minute, 30-second routine is “extremely difficult.”
“We open with toe tucks and standing tucks, go into an elite stunt. Running, tumbling and then go into our cheer part. We finish with jumps and dance and a pyramid,” she said.
Robinson said that this year’s routine is more challenging than the previous one.
“We’re really excited to put it out on the floor for everyone.”
The judges will evaluate based on difficulty, execution, flow, transitions and the team’s ability to get the crowd involved, according to Schatz.
The squad is practicing four to five days weekly,in preparation for the competitions. All of the students also cheer on the varsity squad at school sporting events.
“January and February are our busiest months because we have WPIALs (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League), Nationals and Worlds all in these four months, so we have practice Monday through Friday every week. And then right before we go, we have the showcase that our parents come to, so we have to work up to that, too,” Robinson said.
Furthermore, the squad has fundraised for the Orlando trip through T-shirt sales, a banner sponsorship, a children’s cheerleading clinic and an event at Holy Spirit Parish in Millvale.
Following the Florida competitions, the cheerleaders will take a break for a couple of weeks, before attending an end-of-season banquet. Thereafter, Schatz and co-coach Becky Troppman will host tryouts for the next season.
Robinson said the Worlds and Nationals competitions bring mixed feelings for the seniors who have participated in the sport since middle school.
“We’re looking forward to it because it’s a lot of work, but it’s also bittersweet because I’ve been cheering for so long. To finally come to an end, I don’t know how I’ll feel. I’ll probably cry.”