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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

— “In two weeks, we raised about $13,000,” Vabney said. “We have great support from our school district and the families in our communities.”

Vabney said the South Colonie School District was also 100 percent behind the team, and although the students had to be pulled out of school for a week, there was a classroom and tutors in Orlando for the kids.

When they finally got to Florida, the girls spent a day enjoying the Disney parks and then went into preparation for their competition against eight other teams in their division. The teams were judged on precision, choreography, routine difficulty, creativity and motion. Adult coaches Rachel Santandrea, Rachael Blaine, and Fern Pizzaro choreographed the two-and-a-half minute winning routine for the four competitions.

“This year, our music had a theme of ‘believe,’” Santandrea, who has 15 seasons of cheerleading and 10 seasons of coaching under her belt. “Every song had something about believing.”

Yet the girls couldn’t believe they won the national competition when the judges announced their name as the winning team for their division.

“All of the girls burst into tears and starting jumping up and down. They were so happy,” Vabney said. “They worked so hard and they just couldn’t believe it finally happened for them. The kids are still walking on cloud nine.”

The team will now begin preparing for next year’s round of competitions. Vabney said she hopes to take the team to the Pop Warner 3 level, which requires more difficult stunts and tumbling. But after a year of victory after victory, it doesn’t seem to be too much of a stretch.

“We just knew we were going to have a great season, but I don’t think any of us knew how good of a season we were gonna have,” Vabney said.

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