The Cumberland Valley High School varsity cheerleading squad capped a stellar season with a third-place finish at the 2018 National High School Cheerleading Championships.
“These girls practiced four days a week during the fall — sometimes five,” Coach Kristi Shaffner said. “They even practiced Super Bowl Sunday this year. They really worked hard. I can’t say enough about their work ethic.”
Members of the team are 12th-graders Noelle Bennese, Victoria Burnett, Rory Coughlin, Lea Curl, Ariel DaSilva, Lauren LaPointe, Madison Long, Caley McGuigan and Sarah Swartz; 11th-graders Ashlyn Bornman, Caitlyn Colyer, Madelynn Dorsey, Lauren Grundusky, Ahmari Johnson, Vanessa Long and Sydney Segin; 10th-graders Lauren Cirrincione, Hayley Clark, Olivia Crawford, Ella Cressler, Morgan Matherly, Breanna McEwen, Emma Neely, Ally Palmer, Nicole Pautler, Laicie Ray, Kirstin Reinard, Veronica Slevin and Elizabeth Stehman; and ninth-graders Hannah Arentz, Deanna Gilbert, Effie Lemus, Amanda Murin and Peyton Palmeri.
Assistant coaches are Bethany Mullin and Amanda Peterson.
The national competition was held Feb. 10-11 at Disney World’s ESPN Center in Orlando, Florida. Cumberland Valley, which competes in the Super Varsity Division for teams with at least 21 cheerleaders from school districts with an enrollment of at least 1,600 in grades nine to 12, received an invitation from the Universal Cheerleaders Association by winning the regional competition in Kutztown in December.
At the national competition, Cumberland Valley advanced to the finals by finishing second out of 14 teams in the preliminary round and seventh in the semifinals.
“We had three errors in the semifinals but still made the finals,” Shaffner said. “In the finals, we did a great job and ended up third out of nine teams — our best placement ever. … We are thrilled.”
Houston, Tennessee, won the national title and United, Texas, placed second.
Caley McGuigan, 17, said the third-place finish at nationals “will forever be an amazing accomplishment for Cumberland Valley cheerleading.”
“This past cheer season was definitely my hardest working, and I’ve been with Cumberland Valley cheerleading for 12 years,” she said. “My team and I worked so hard in the gym so that way our skills could be the best they could be. This was the hardest routine Cumberland Valley cheerleading has ever had.”
McGuigan said the team reached its goal to compete in the national finals and earn a medal, and credited her coaches for her team’s success.
“We were guaranteed ninth place in the nation at that point (finals), and that was so exciting to us,” she said. “When we performed in finals, we nailed it. We were so proud of each other. Awards came, and we waited for our name to be called. Our best ranking (previously) was fifth at nationals, so we wanted to do even better. As teams got called and we got to the top five, my team was ecstatic. When they called us for third place, we went crazy. Third place is such a great accomplishment for a team that has only attended nationals for three years.”
This is the third year that Cumberland Valley has gone to the national tournament. The team placed fifth in 2016 and eighth in 2017.
Shaffner said the team’s improvement can be attributed to hard work and dedication, which has allowed the girls to learn “super elite skills” that earn extra points from the judges.
“Our level of difficulty is the most we’ve ever had,” she said. “We have high-to-highs. You have a girl over your head, and she does a full twist. She’s standing in your hands and twists the whole way around. Then we have one-and-a-half-ups to a heel stretch. The top girl from the bottom spins one-and-a-half times up to the top and does a heel stretch. When she’s at the top, she’s standing on one leg.
“Our difficulty level is improving enough to get up into the top three.”
Shaffner said the past season is definitely one to remember. Cumberland Valley won the District 3 championship and finished second in states.
“We were really, really close to winning (states),” she said. “We were edged out by seven-tenths of a point.”
Cumberland Valley has won the District 3 championship every year since it started eight years ago, and won the state tournament four times and finished second twice since it was first held six years ago.
“We’ve had a very successful season,” Shaffner said. “It’s definitely been one of our best, especially with that level of difficulty.”