Submitted photo / Pictured are members of the Montgomery High School Cheerleaders Competition team that won the Small Varsity Game Day division at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship competition at the ESPN Center in Orlando.
The Montgomery High School Cheerleaders Competition team made Cougar Nation proud by capturing first place in the Small Varsity Game Day division at the UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) National High School Cheerleading Championship competition at the ESPN Center in Orlando.
The squad on that day of Feb. 8 defeated hundreds of teams nationally, which was a truly amazing feat considering this team only just started competing in the Game Day category two years ago.
Led by head coach Marisa Scarlata and assistant coaches Amanda Cahill and Dana Castronovo, these athletes have been working together since mid-August, preparing both of their competition routines, and cheering for the Montgomery Township High School varsity football and basketball teams.
Each year, the squad attends Trails End Camp in Honesdale, Pa. for four days in August to prepare for football season.
“This past season, we used a lot of our competition material during football and basketball games to engage the crowd, and allow for a fun game day experience,” Coach Scarlata said “It also allowed the girls to be more prepared for the competition setting. The girls continued to be undefeated in the game day division throughout their season, claiming a county title, and three regional titles along the way.”
Before leaving for Nationals, the girls asked not to know their standing going into the final round of the competition, wanting to keep themselves in the mindset that they needed to work harder, and perform stronger in finals, no matter where they ranked after semifinals. After the semi-final round of the competition, the girls were in first place by three points.
“Knowing they were so close to achieving their goal, as coaches we withheld that information from them, and told them that they needed to work harder and compete stronger the next time, because they were so close to achieving everything they had worked for this season” Scarlata said. “Their finals performance was their best of the season, and the girls knew they had done everything in their power to claim the title.”
“They have been close to claiming a national title the past three years, and worked the hardest they ever have to achieve their goal of becoming Small Varsity Game Day National Champions. Against 22 teams in Orlando, the Montgomery High cheerleaders scored a 94.6 in finals, five points ahead of the second place team!”
In addition to their first place win (and receiving the coveted 2019 champion “white jackets” reserved for first place), the team was invited to participate in a World School Varsity Game Day competition where they placed third place and won a bronze medal.
Seniors Jillian Ark, Caroline Beschner, Lizzie Church, Malia Drift and Chilly Wallace are no strangers to national titles. As Pop Warner cheerleaders, their teams won a record-setting three national cheer titles for Montgomery. T
Cheerleading involves excellence in many disciplines: gymnastics, dance, flexibility and stamina. Daily training consists of rigorous strength conditioning, tumbling practice, cardio, choreography, etc. Changes to routines are often made on the fly. Teamwork is crucial, as each member is critical to the success of stunt groups and pyramids, and one wrong move can lead to injuries. And it’s all done with a big smile.
As if practices, competition and sideline cheering wasn’t enough for these determined athletes, they also look for ways to give back to the community. The annual football “Pink Out” in the fall raises money for cancer awareness. The team designs and sells “Cougars for a Cure” t-shirts and hosts a cheer clinic for younger girls in grades K-8, who are then permitted to cheer with the team on the sidelines and during halftime at the Pink Out game.
The Montgomery High School Cheerleading team also claimed the NJCDCA State Game Day title against 10 teams, outscoring the second place team by eight points.
The Winter Sideline/Competitive Team consists of freshmen Lexi Johnson, Katie Ruckelshaus and Gianna Taylor; sophomores Alex Mallon, Mia Masses, Amanda Krowiak, and Kristina Witten; juniors Kailyn Floersch, Allie Foxx, Lauren Grosso, and Jess Kaplan; and seniors Jillian Ark, Caroline Beschner, Lizzie Church, Malia Drift, and Chilly Wallace.