Reading Pop Warner Cheering Teams Make History
Reading’s three Pop Warner Cheering teams made history when for the first time each qualified to participate in the 2018 Pop Warner National Cheer & Dance Championships to be held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando Florida. The A, C, and D teams will represent a select group of squads representing the New England region in cheer and dance programs from December 1-7.
The Reading girls competed among other talented girls from throughout Massachusetts and southern New England on teams classified by age and squad size. Led by commanding performances from the C (Pee Wee, Small) and D (Jr. Pee Wee, Medium) teams, who both won Grand Champion titles at Regionals, all the girls’ success was the culmination of hard-work and determination.
“These girls practice 6 hours a week. They are strong, determined, and passionate about their sport,” said Penny Belmonte, Director of Cheering for Reading Pop Warner (RPW). Reading is one of only a few towns in New England to ever place 3 teams at Nationals and the feat marks a first in RPW’s history.
For a cheerleading or dance team, the difficult road to the national championship is quite similar to that of the football teams. A spirit team will showcase their best 2:30 routine at the League Championship, the top two teams in each division advance to the Region Championships.
The path to Orlando was anything, but assured, as Readings’ girls competed against dozens of teams at every level of the competition. The A team (Varsity, Large) came in first in their division at the League competition and the Eastern Mass competition. They came in second place at Regionals to advance to Nationals. The C team came in first place at Leagues and Eastern Mass, as well as being Grand Champions at both. C team also came in first place at Regionals to advance to Nationals and secured a partial bid to compete at the Global Championship in Atlantic City, NJ, in June 2019. The D team came in first place at Leagues and Eastern Mass, along with being Grand Champions at both. They came in second place at Regionals to advance to Nationals.
Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport that has often been underestimated. “Not only do [the girls] cheer at football games on Sundays,” commented Belmonte, “they tumble, they jump, and they lift people into the air! They are very close, they support and encourage each other.”
Cheering demands the same personal and team commitment to excellence associated with other sports.
Since the heat of August, head coaches Sarah True (A team), Heather Talty (C team), and Beth Crowley (D team), along with assistants and demonstrators, have dedicated their time and creative energies to prepare their teams for these memorable moments.
Regardless of the outcome in Orlando, the girls have developed behaviors and forged memories that will last a lifetime. “We here in Reading have some really great kids that are having fun and love what they do,” concluded Belmonte, “as it says on their shirts “When we step on the mat we are family.””