By Ruby Jones
For the first time in school history, the Meridian High Cheer team was able to compete at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) Game Day Nationals in Orlando, Florida. On February 10-13, the team spent the weekend competing with other schools from across the nation as they represented their school at a cheer competition of this high level. The trip was a fantastic success and an amazing experience for the team. Out of the 78 teams in their division from all across the nation, MHS came in 12th place.
In the Meridian High School cheer program, cheerleaders push each other to be the best they can be. They strive to be positive representatives of their school, to encourage school spirit, and to be hard-working athletes. When asked about the impact the MHS cheer program has had, senior Emma Ward summarized how all of them feel: “Being on the Meridian Cheer team for the past five years has provided me with so many friendships, life lessons, and skills that I will carry with me forever.” With the help of our wonderful coaches, Allison Cray, Elizabeth Watkins, and Axelle Amos, the team works hard each practice to learn new skills, perfect routines, cheer on fellow athletes, and stay motivated, no matter what obstacles they face. Competing at UCA Game Day Nationals was a fitting end to a season full of growth and achievement.
At the UCA Game Day Competition, the team was able to show off what they do on the sidelines while cheering on the football team. They performed a dance to band music, a situational chant in which they reacted to either an offensive or defensive cue, a crowd-leading cheer, and finished off the routine with Meridian’s fight song, all with a smile on their faces. “Qualifying for nationals was something I could never have imagined when I first joined 5 years ago,” says senior Elle Elrich. “Having the opportunity to attend was not only an amazing experience but also a great way to represent Meridian and Falls Church City.”
They prepared for this competition both mentally and physically for the last six months. From the very beginning of the season in August, they always made sure to keep their eyes on the prize, talking only about when they made it to nationals— not if. When the regional qualifier was moved up a month it left them just a couple of weeks to polish their routine for the competition that would determine their fate. They worked as hard as they could before they attended the regional competition in Richmond, where they took third place, qualifying the team to go to Orlando.
In the months following regionals, they worked hard to raise money to fund the trip. They set up a GoFundMe, sold spirit gear and Little Caeser’s pizzas, held two cheer clinics for elementary schoolers, hosted a fundraiser at Audacious Aleworks and went canvassing door-to-door in many of the neighborhoods in the community.
They couldn’t be more proud of their team, and the memories they made this season will last a lifetime. The team would like to thank everyone who contributed to helping the team get to nationals. They could never have made it to where they are without the support they have received from the community And of course a big thanks to their parents and coaches, who made it all possible.