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MOUNT WASHINGTON - It was Tuesday, Feb. 9. A heavy blanket of snow covered the region, bringing transportation to a virtual halt.
Several of the flights in and out of Louisville’s International Airport were cancelled, including one scheduled to fly to Orlando, Fla. the next morning.
The Eastside Middle School Cheerleading team was supposed to be on that flight and on their way to Florida to compete in the Universal Cheerleading Association National Cheerleading Championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Disney World.
Eastside cheerleading coach Carrie DeBold said it was not a good start to the squad’s first national competition.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh is this an omen of what’s to come,” DeBold said.
The incident may have seemed like a bad sign, but it was just a hurdle on team’s journey toward victory.
The team and its entourage rode charter buses to Orlando on Feb. 9, and after four days of competing Eastside placed second in the 2010 UCA National Cheerleading Championship large junior high division.
DeBold said UCA was the most elite national cheerleading competition in the country.
“Our initial goal was to make it to finals. First year teams don’t usually do well at this competition,” DeBold said. “I still can’t believe we placed second. I have to pinch myself sometimes.”
DeBold said the win was astonishing not only because it was Eastside’s first year at the competition, but because of all the challenges they faced along the way.
After their flight was cancelled they arrived in Orlando to bad weather, the team wasn’t performing well during their warm-up exercises, the competition was fierce and there was a technical glitch during their winning performance.
DeBold said she thought the team performed well throughout the competition, but because everyone else did so well it was hard to tell whether they would meet their goal, but they did.
“After we made it to finals we were in bonus land. We didn’t expect to go any further,” DeBold said.
DeBold told her team that the only thing she expected of them was to do their best and have no regrets.
“A first-place trophy is nice, but a first place performance is better,” DeBold said.
They squad had been practicing for the competition since last summer, going over their routine up to three hours a day everyday after school during the six weeks leading up to the competition.
“I told them they would get out of it what they put into it,” DeBold said. “It paid off, but it was a very long six weeks.”
If it weren’t for all of their practicing, they may not have overcome what would happen to them during their winning performance.
When the team performed their winning routine the unthinkable happened.
In the middle of their routine their music stopped.
“I thought how can this be happening to us,” DeBold said.
But thanks to all their practice the squad was able to keep the tempo by counting out loud.
The crowd began counting with them and the incident had no affect on their performance.
“They really showed focus,” DeBold said.
Principal Bonita Franklin said she thought the team was good, but that she never imagined they would place second in the nation.
“They performed high level stunts that I’ve seen them struggle with over the years. They really stepped up and they were so solid. I’m very proud of them,” Franklin said.
DeBold said she watches the video of the team’s winning performance in amazement every day.
Franklin said she’s received countless emails from cheerleading teams in at least eight different states congratulating Eastside on their win.
“These are national cheerleading gurus congratulating our team.
“I’m hearing over and over that the Eastside cheerleaders have done something that’s never been done before,” Franklin said.
“I think it’s fantastic that the cheerleading community is letting us know how unique their win is. I haven’t spoken to anyone who’s seen a first year team make it to finals much less win,” Franklin said.
Besides being named 2010 UCA National Cheerleading Championship large junior high division runner up, the 2009-2010 Eastside cheerleading team has also been named Bullitt County Middle School champion, Middle School
State Sectionals in large junior high champion and grand champion, Metro Classic large junior high champion, Mercy Cheer Challenge champion and grand champion, and Kentucky State Fair runner up.
The Eastside cheerleading squad’s winning performance at the Universal Cheerleading Association competition will air on ESPN on April 24 at 1:30 p.m.