NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- New Rochelle High School's Junior Varsity Cheerleading team won sixth place in the annual Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) National Cheerleading Championship last month in Orlando, Fla.
The team faced challenges when it decided to compete in the UCA Empire Regional Competition. It had been recently assembled, and a number of its members were new, with little or no cheerleading experience, according to a release from the City School District of New Rochelle.
The team also lost members due to injury and withdrawals. When it entered the regional competition in December, the team did not win a bid to make it to the nationals.
However, members gained permission to submit a video to the judges in the hope of being allowed to compete in the next round. Two days before Christmas, the team learned it made the cut, the release said.
"It was a kind of Christmas present for them," said Laura Clement, one of two cheerleading coaches at NRHS. "They were so excited. They wanted to make sure that the second chance they got didn't go to waste."
The team worked very hard, and every week their performance got better, according to the release. But, five days before the team was to leave for the national competition, a team member broke her ankle during a warmup. The team adjusted the routine and made it work, the release said.
On the departure date, a snowstorm forced the cancellation of flights across the region, so the team boarded a bus and traveled 21 hours to arrive at Orlando, where they practiced for two days before the semifinals on Saturday, Feb. 11.
The team had a few drops in their routine in the semifinal round. But when judges announced their decision, New Rochelle High School had placed fourth and would be going to the finals. That night, the Junior Varsity Cheerleading team walked away sixth in the nation out of many teams that competed from across America.
"It is truly a Cinderella story," said Tsahai Amazan, a parent who accompanied the team to Orlando. "We made it. We fought for everything, and we made our dream a reality."