The Dallastown School District's competitive cheerleading team has qualified to compete in one of the most prestigious national cheerleading competitions in February at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. It took years for the team to reach national championships in an increasingly competitive sport.
Head coach Erin Miller, a 2003 Dolotown graduate, started at the school in 2010, around the same time the PIAA made cheerleading a competitive sport. "It's crazy how far cheerleading has come in the last 10-12 years. The skills are more difficult. It's more about being perfect and not throwing away the hardest skills possible," Miller said.
Adding to the challenge, Miller said rival divisions were eliminated, putting Dallastown in the largest group of schools competing for the same title.
“It's more than just supporting your team on the sidelines. There is a lot to be done from the point of view of the backlog and the trial and error method," added assistant coach Stefania Bileva.
Photo: Dolastown High School's 2022 homecoming
On a dark winter night just before Christmas at Dallastown Area High School near Jacobs, a group of students began working on the limitations of a 42-by-54-foot welcome mat. An organized group storms the mat and begins training, creating an evening of teamwork and energy that takes Dallastown to the Nationals.
Small groups of women's teams break into larger groups, rehearsing choreography and stunts over and over again, while coaches quickly record moves on their smartphones, use tripods and review results with students.
“It's basically a two-and-a-half-minute cardio run, and on top of that, they have to shout, show off their gymnastic skills, dance and laugh while doing all these exercises. , Bilev said when asked to describe the entire routine.
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Assistant coach Tony Lozzi, a 2008 Dolotown graduate, said the success at the elementary school comes from the investment in kids starting in elementary school with youth programs in the district. These students have excelled in their classrooms and are now competing as high school athletes.
Lozi believes that the pandemic also played a role in the current success. “Guys who are juniors, they were freshmen during the COVID season when there was really nothing we could do. We had to wear masks. "I think it makes them want the regular season and more success because they've put in the same amount of work and had very few opportunities to compete."
Photo: Dolastov Secondary School of Dance 2022
“These are talented, hard-working kids … talent is in short supply, especially in our division, the most competitive in the county … they give extra reps when things don't go their way, they show up early, they stay. late, they applaud each other. They don't just talk about winning, they know what it takes, how long it takes to get there, it's like a coach's dream,” Lozzi said with a laugh.
"I think the biggest challenge is getting everyone together when it's needed," said Jayla Johnson, who has worked in the district's incentive program for 15 years. "I'm upset, very upset," he said when asked about domestic competition.
"You can shoot a million times in practice and it's over," said Natalie Cottrell, who has been in the show for 11 years.
"You have to slip a little and it ruins everything for everybody," added Brenna Wenger, who has been on the show for just six years and is a gymnast and dancer with 16 years of experience. .
"I think we'll be ready, we just have to channel that anxiety into something good," Cottrell said as he spun around in practice less than two months before the national meet.
Cottrell believes winning nationals is more at stake in a sport that has recently become known as a sport where competition has grown rapidly over the past decade and still struggles with the long-standing image of just rooting for the team. "I just want to leave a good reputation as an artist, because people don't understand what it is… I want to make a statement: this is what we do, and we're good at it."
The 2023 UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships will be held February 10-12 in Orlando, Florida.
I have been capturing life through the lens since 1983 and am currently a visual reporter for the USA Today Network. You can contact me at [email protected]
This article originally appeared in the York Daily Record: Dolasttown cheerleaders compete for national title in their sport