At this point, I was sitting at a table in some back-room of a restaurant surrounded by a whole bunch of cheerleaders and their parents. I sat at the table with all the other girls all holding stares with the same thing, almost like they still couldn’t believe what had just happened not too long ago. Everyone had their eyes on the literal prize- that big “1st place” trophy square in the middle of the circular wooden table (that was made to seat 8, but had about 20 other chairs pulled up to it). It was just a little reminder of what we had just accomplished.
The whole cheer team was on the right corner of the big blue cheer mat, about to perform our routine in front of judges and hundreds of people. This was it! If we didn’t place in the top 3 out of the 20-or-so other teams in our division that would be the end. No more cheer practices. No more cheer competitions. Not until next season anyways. But, if we did move on, we would compete at Nationals in Florida in just a few weeks. Florida!
There were two mats set up, and another team was performing. We watched and waited, ready for that team to finish, so that we could show everybody what we could do. A couple seconds later we were told to walk onto the mat quietly, as to not disturb the other team finishing up. We got into our “opening” spots, standing in “clean” with our hands glued to our sides and our heads down, ready.
The other team finished soon after.
Now it was our turn.
Our turn to perform.
“Aspetuck Wildcats you may begin.” The announcer drew out the “ah” in Aspetuck just a bit. The music started up- and we began. Florida at stake…
The next two minutes and 30 seconds were a bit of a blur. A clean, tight, all-stunts went-up, loud, perfect kind of blur. Too good to remember. But the moments following weren’t…
We sprinted off of the mat, cheering and waving as we stepped off, but things instantly changed.
Someone had an asthma attack, others had throbbing headaches, and quite a few were crying. It was a lot of people’s last year cheering for our team (8th grade was the last year to be on the team), and possibly their last competition if we could help it. It was their last chance.
We couldn’t sit still. We walked around, looked at bows, looked at action shots, got food. We couldn’t keep our mind off what was to come. We were restless the whole time we had to wait until awards. But, it finally came. The “moment of truth”.
Soon, all cheer teams were piling into the arena (the same place we had performed). Music played, but no one from our team could really dance, we were too nervous. We just sat there, planted, glued to the hard cold cement. Waiting…
Finally, everyone began to calm down. Music quieted down. They announced that they were going to start calling teams for awards.
But they didn’t make it that easy.
They first made us wait for the “50/50” raffle to be called.
The lucky winner got up, verified their winning ticket, and got their money.
Then there was a thank you to the judges.
But, we go through it soon enough.
They went through every division, it seemed like, except ours.
Until they announced it…
“And now for division 13 large red…”
This was our division, the one we were competing in. This is what really mattered.
The announcer talked in an “announcer-like” voice, sounding as if he had just come out of the television or some kind of commercial.
The announcer called up 3rd place. It wasn’t us.
The announcer called up 2nd. It wasn’t us either.
There were a few dreadful little claps, but, not much from our team.
Heads instantly bowed and everyone held hands- right over left.
Our biggest competition- Shelton- sat in a circle behind us and looked just as worried.
Only one more team could place.
Only one more team could get the big shiny trophy that had “1st place” engraved on it.
The announcer took his time before saying first place. But, when he did, the results were astonishing.
“And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…” He took a long, annoying, suspenseful pause…
Everyone squeezed their eyes closed in hopes for the best.
“Division 13 Large Red First place goes to…The Aspetuck Wildcats!”
All I had to do was here the “Ah” to know. To know we won.
My whole team instantly shot up. We jumped, we cried, we hugged each other, we screamed. We took that trophy and started making our way towards the exit. We cheered and we chanted. We hooted and hollard. We were told to not make others feel bad so we stopped, for 20 seconds! We stopped on the stairs and took a picture- the one that would end up being on “News 12”. Announcing that a Connecticut team would be going to nationals in Florida after winning 1st place.
It was a great feeling, one of the best.
To celebrate the team walked to a restaurant across from the hotel we were all staying at and got a whole room at the back of the building and placed that 1st place trophy right in the middle of the table that everyone crowded around. The same one I stared at now, dazed and tired, yet, awake and excited.
Within time, we would all be on a plane heading to Florida, all for the same reason. Ready to compete once more.