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North Allegheny competitive spirit squad takes second place at championships

| Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Courtesy of Action Shots Photography
North Allegheny's competitive spirit squad took second place in their division in the Pennylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Competitve Spirit Championships, which took place in January 2014 in Hershey. Kneeling (from left) are Shannon Danis, Marissa Locke, Maria Fuhrman, Nicole Morton and Alyssa Warth. In the middle row are Monica Kizis, Kaitlyn Fukas, Alexa Schreiber, Shannon Burnham, Casey Mrazik, Tina Salpietro, Emily Wiloch, Erin Barberio and Ella Choban. In back are Hailey Bartolomucci, Jaclyn Gallon, Kiersten Smay, Tori Zabo, Alainah Sfamenos, Julia Dollard, Gretchen Schurman, Abby Wrigley, Emily Gralewski, Morgan Rutan and Cam Fazio.

Usually, when about half of the roster consists of freshmen and sophomores, a team is in a rebuilding year.

That's not the case for North Allegheny's varsity competitive cheering squad, which for the second consecutive year placed second in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association's competitive spirit championships.

It also was the first year that head coach Courtenay Carrel allowed freshmen to try out for the varsity team.

“I think it was pretty easy to have them adjust to the squad,” senior Alyssa Warth said.

“They are all very talented and nice, so I don't think it made too much of a difference, compared to previous years. I think their experience will help future squads.”

This was the second year the PIAA had the cheerleading competition. Last month, the NA cheerleaders competed against 43 other squads in the state's Medium Varsity Division for squads that had between 16 to 20 athletes. North Allegheny had 20 girls compete.

While they scored 82.23 points to qualify for the state finals, they scored only 80.6 points in the last round. They finished 2.53 points behind the state champion, Bishop McCourt High School, a Catholic school in Johnstown.

“Having WPIAL- and state-championship competitions is a great experience, especially to prepare our younger girls for nationals,” said Warth, 17, of Marshall Township. “It's nice to finally be recognized as a sport and to have our own championship to go after.”

Each squad was judged in six categories: cheering, stunting, tumbling, jumps, dance and pyramids. Within each category, judges scored teams for difficulty and execution.

North Allegheny cheerleaders also competed in the Universal Cheerleaders Association National Championship in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 8 and 9.

Based on roster size and school enrollment, North Allegheny cheerleaders competed in the UCA's Large Varsity Division I category, where they have been finalists in five of the last nine years. The highest North Allegheny ever placed in nationals was fifth in 2009.

While the North Allegheny cheerleaders' goal was to finish in the top 10 nationally, they finished in 17th place, just two spots shy of being finalists for the national title.

“I don't think we were too bothered by just missing finals because I think we were more excited and proud to hit the routine so well with the difficulty that it had,” said senior Maria Fuhrman, 18, of McCandless.

Each squad's routine at nationals could have lasted up to two minutes, 30 seconds.

While up to one minute, 30 seconds of the routine could have been dedicated to a musical number, up to another minute could have been devoted to at least one cheer.

“They have a lot of talent going into next year, and I think this year's results excited everyone a lot, and they'll work 150 percent harder to keep improving,” Fuhrman said.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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