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Three cheers for national champs

Colonie Pop Warner cheerleaders take national title in ESPN competition

Colonie Pop Warner Pee Wee Cheerleading Team won first place in their division at the National Cheer and Dance Competition held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex in Disney World, Florida.

Colonie Pop Warner Pee Wee Cheerleading Team won first place in their division at the National Cheer and Dance Competition held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex in Disney World, Florida. Submitted Photo

— A national cheerleading title has given a Colonie Pop Warner team something to cheer about.

On Wednesday, Dec. 5, the Colonie Pop Warner Pee Wee Cheerleading Team snagged first place in their division at the National Cheer and Dance Competition held at the ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex in Disney World, Fla. More than 300 cheer squads from around the country competed in the five-day event from Friday, Nov. 30 to Friday, Dec. 8.

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Using a routine they had been perfecting since August, the 28-girl team has been committed and very hardworking, said cheerleading coordinator and head coach Martha Vabney. Most of the sixth- and seventh-grade girls have been moving up together on the Pop Warner cheerleading circuit for four or five years.

“Even though they come from very different places and they’re not all best friends … when they get together on that field, they are one unit,” Vabney said. “They just gel together as a team right from the beginning.”

Getting to nationals was a smooth ride for the cheerleaders. In order to get to Florida, the girls had to compete in several competitions and come in either first place or runner-up. In October, they competed in the Capital District Spirit Competition with about 100 other teams. They won first place in their size and skill level against other large Pop Warner Pee Wee 2 teams. Next, they landed first place at the Eastern Region Pop Warner North Cheer Qualifier. From there, they advanced to the Eastern Region Cheer Competition in Trenton, N.J., and there the team won top score of the day out of any skill level, beating out 118 other teams.

“They were crazy good that day,” Vabney said.

With all of their wins roughly within one month of one another, the cheerleaders were qualified to move on to nationals. But the biggest challenge didn’t come from mastering a routine or facing other dedicated squads, it was financing the trip itself. Taking 89 people to Florida, including the coaches, cheerleaders and their families, constituted a hefty cost on the team. With the support of the community and several fundraisers, the team was able to raise thousands of dollars to offset the $1,200 per person fee.

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