Cheerleaders compete in Florida, come back as national winners

Since the beginning of the school year, cheer focused on learning the routine for their national competition in February. Westlake cheerleaders returned from Florida’s competition as the official number one cheer squad in the nation.

“We practiced a lot,” cheer coach Jeffrey Nixon said. “We started learning the choreography for that routine in August before school started. We continued to work on that routine and add skills in as we gained difficulty and just continued to refine the routine until it became that final product.”

As the date of the competition came closer, the cheer team started staying after school later than usual.

“Up until nationals, we practiced every single day, seven days a week, for at least two hours,” senior Audrey Beesly said.

The team left for Florida, where the competition was, Feb. 8. The team got to visit Disney World and hang out for a bit. The competition was the next day.

“The day we got there, we went to the hotel, checked in and relaxed,” Nixon said. “On that Friday, we did some practicing and went to the parks for a little bit and did some team bonding”

Although the competition had a light, fun feeling, there were some scary moments.

“This year for sure it was more of a fun inviting environment because we knew that we could win,” junior Becca Almgren said. “We had practiced so many times, that it was easy. We had it under our belts. But I think the scariest part was waiting backstage, like when we were on deck waiting to perform and you hear the teams in front of you music go off, and you’re like, ‘OK it’s go time.’”

After the team finished its routine, the cheerleaders waited for everyone else to perform. At the very end, the judges totaled up the points and announced the winner.

“It was so scary because [the announcer]  named everyone [besides our team and Houston] and so the entire team was scrunched up in a tiny ball and we were all squeezing each others’ hands, shaking and breathing hard,” Becca said. “Then we hear ‘second place… Houston!’”

Last year the team placed 29th in nationals. Many of the cheerleaders have been practicing cheer since they were young, Being announced as first place this year was a huge accomplishment for the entire team.

“It was [unbelievable that we won] just because it’s what we’ve been working towards well before we went into high school,” junior Harper Didlake said. “I’ve been cheering since early elementary school and everything I’ve done since then has led up to this.”