Cheerleaders headed to Nationals |

Cheerleaders headed to Nationals

National champions.

Every cheerleading squad dreams about it. But only the best get the opportunity to compete for the title.

Two months ago, the Glenwood Springs High School Demons squad earned its way to the annual National Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Fla., by winning the state 4A championship.

This weekend, the Demon cheerleaders will put 10 months of training, miles of wind sprints and countless hours polishing their 2-minute, 15-second routine against 59 squads from across the United States, in hopes of being judged as this year’s best cheer team in North America.

The traveling party of 16 performing cheerleaders, three substitutes, three coaches, and parents and supporters leaves Thursday morning from the Eagle County airport.

As of press time, no pre-event sendoffs for the squad were planned, but a police escort for the travelcade as it leaves Glenwood Springs is set for Thursday morning, according to GSHS assistant principal Sonya Hemman.

The 16-member cheer squad is one of four Colorado high school teams competing in the all-girl, medium-size varsity division. The event runs from Friday through Sunday at the Disney World/MGM Studios complex.

This is the second time in three years GSHS has earned a berth to nationals. In 2001, the Demons failed to advance from the preliminaries.

“The first time we went, it was unreal,” recalled junior Courtney McCallum, a member of both squads. “There were cameras and people everywhere with big, huge video screens – it was overwhelming.

“This time we’re going to be a little more relaxed. We know what’s coming and we’ll deal with it the best we can. Last time we had no idea,” McCallum said.

Squad member Tessie Tracy agreed that the event can be scary, but added, “I’ve learned that it’s just another competition. All we have to do is go out there, hit our routine and have a lot of fun.”

The fun is for the Demons to reach as high as they can.

Outside of the Colorado schools, the Demons know little of their opponents.

McCallum said facing unknown opponents “is a little scary.”

Her worries were lessened by coach Lynn Goluba, who reminded the squad that Glenwood’s opponents are “teenagers, exactly like us, and they are competing for the same thing.”

This year’s field includes seven teams that placed in the 2002 competition.

Among the returnees are last year’s champions from Boaz, Ala., and last year’s runner-up, Winter Park, Fla., and third-place finisher North Laurel High School from London, Ky.

Other 2002 divisional places making a return this year are Collierville, Tenn., High School, Bolton High of Alexandria, La., Eaglecrest, the Colorado Class 5A runner-up at the CHSAA state competition, from the Denver suburb of Centennial, and Rancho Santa Margarita, a private school from Orange County, Calif.

The National High School Cheerleading Championships is managed and judged by the Universal Cheerleaders Association of Memphis, Tenn. Squads earn berths to nationals by obtaining a average score of 85 percent or higher out of a maximum of 100 points from earlier-held regional or state competitions.

Sixteen national titles are offered at this weekend’s events. The divisions range from all-girl junior high and high school teams to coed high school varsity squads. The divisions are determined by the number of members on the squad.

The medium, all-girl varsity division Glenwood competes in includes squads with 14-20 members.

The format of the competition differs from the Colorado High School Activities Association’s State Championships, where the Demons won the Class 4A championship in December.

The CHSAA event breaks downs divisions by team size and a school’s student enrollment, unlike the UCA-administered event.

At nationals, school size does not matter. Glenwood Springs, with 750 students, is the smallest of the four Colorado schools entered.

But, they are not the smallest school, in number, scheduled to compete this weekend.

Boaz, Ala., has the smallest enrollment at 405 students, Winter Park has the most with 3,355 enrollees.

All 60 squads compete in a preliminary round on Saturday at the Indiana Jones Theater on the grounds of the Disney/MGM studios complex.

Schools earning the highest scores in the preliminaries, usually about 20, advance to Sunday’s semifinals, according to Marlene Cota, UCA vice-president of marketing.

Approximately 13 semifinalists advance to the ESPN, tape-delay, televised finals.

According to the ESPN programming department, this year’s high school finals will be aired in March.

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