Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Athletic Cheerleaders Winners of Top U.S. Honors

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mandarin Athletic Cheerleaders Winners of Top U.S. Honors

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Boleky

The Mandarin Athletic Association Cheerleading program took one national Top 5 team last year and turned it into three. That's what I call a productive organization.

Association Cheerleading Director Theresa Austin had three squads show their stunts at the Pop Warner National Cheer and Dance Championships Dec. 5-11 at Disney's Wide World of Sports. The Junior Pee Wee (age 9-11) placed fourth, Pee Wee (age 10-12) was second and Midget (age 12-15) came in fifth. All of them competed in the Small Intermediate division, which has a team size less than 20, against squads from all over the nation. The three teams qualified for Nationals by placing in the top two at the Southeast Regional Competition in Orlando Thanksgiving weekend.

Many girls on the Pee Wee team, coached by 18-year-old Ashley Strong, were part of the Junior Pee Wee team last year that placed second in this same event.

"We now have a program that's rebuilding itself," said Austin. "Some girls are doing Pop Warner [rather than] high school cheering. There's dedication to the program. They all want to come back and advance together. They win and have success and more girls come back to the program."

The competitions are based on a 2'-minute routine, which is judged and scored. The group is expected to perform stunts, tumbling and dancing consistent with their age group.

MAA Cheer is a "recreation" organization, meaning they are seasonal and keep competitions local, as opposed to a "travel" club like Premier Athletics near Philips Highway and 9A. Still, it makes for a busy season, with practice about three days a week, competitions once a month, and cheering during the Pop Warner football games.

The thrill of a good performance is as powerful as ever.

After the nationals event, "we all starting crying because we were really happy and we knew we were going to place in the top three," said Melinda Blunk, 12, of the Pee Wee team. …

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