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Union Local cheerleaders to compete in nationals

Photo provided The Union Local High School cheerleaders will compete at the national level this February, after qualifying at the state regionals. Pictured are Gwen Gibson, from front left, Kiara Triplett, Cali Brudzinski, Addison Greenwood, Taylor Kildow. Standing, from left, are Aila Moore, Sloan Hanasky, Morganne Emory, Caelyn Crooks, Emma Davis, Emilie Blawut, Kayelynn McBride, Jersie Watson. Coaches are Amy Latham and Mady Brown.

BELMONT — The Union Local High School cheerleaders will pit their skills against those of teams from across the nation early next year when they compete at the national high school cheerleading championship held by the Universal Cheerleaders Association at Walt Disney World in February.

The Union Local cheerleaders competed at the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators regional qualifiers Oct. 23 in Columbus.

Varsity coach Amy Latham said it was too soon to speculate how many teams might be at the national competition.

“We were one of the first regionals held, so I don’t know how many will end up qualifying for the nationals. Fifteen qualified (in the regionals) just from Ohio, and I think there were 18 or 19 teams,” she said.

Latham said this is the first time the team will be competing at this level.

“It was a little intimidating because there were schools of all sizes from Ohio there,” she said.

“Most of them were D-1 schools,” she said, referring to Division 1 schools, which include the largest schools with the biggest athletic programs. “Typically we’re D-4 in Ohio, but with this national division that we’re in … we go up against any school of any size. It doesn’t matter how many students they have.”

Latham has been coaching for 10 years. She said she is proud of her team and was confident when they began their routines at regionals.

“I thought we had a good chance. They’ve been working since July on being ready to get into this regional, so I had a good feeling. The environment was intimidating. There were a lot of schools that had been there before. It was a new experience,” she said.

Latham added that the cheerleaders are always under high pressure during competitions, when all their efforts hinge on one event.

“You get one shot, so it’s got to hit at all levels,” she said. “They look at the overall performance. They judge our cheer or tumbling skills and jumps and the overall performance of it, that’s what they’re looking at. It’s a two-and-a-half minute routine. We had to score so high to even qualify.”

She said the team is highly motivated.

“We set a goal right after tryouts in March. This is something they wanted, and they’ve just been working really hard to get to it. They all have the mindset to work hard, and they want to win – just the determination to get better every day, to put it all out there and do their very best. They’re a very talented group of girls also. A lot goes into cheering that some people don’t realize. The conditioning you have to do, the tumbling, the jumps, the motions, the dancing, being on time with each other … a lot goes into it. They’re a … goal-oriented group of kids.”

She said the cheerleaders look forward to sightseeing in between competing in the three-day competition Feb. 10-12. There will be a preliminary round, semi-finals and finals.

Latham said with airfare and lodging, the cost for the trip is about $1,500 per cheerleader. There are 13 on the team.

“We’ve been doing some fundraising. We’ve got plans of doing some fundraising in a couple months. It is rather expensive to go, so we’ll be doing a lot more fundraising and taking donations,” she said.

Supporters can donate via the Union Local School District’s Facebook page.

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