TRURO - It's been a long road for the Truro Tigers.
But the payoff is just around the corner. The Truro All-Star Cheerleading Company squad hops a plane for Kissimmee, Fla., on Thursday to show what they've got at the Universal Cheerleaders Association International All-Star Championship Saturday and Sunday. The event, hosted at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the Disney resort, will be broadcast on CBS Sports on May 25 at 1 p.m. and streamed on the competition's website.
"We're really, super excited," said Brenna Morris, a 12-year-old base.
Who wouldn't be? Not only will the team's 18 members get to see some of the best cheer teams in the world, but the competition is followed by a week of sightseeing and other activities, including a visit to Disney.
It will all be the culmination of a year-long journey. Coaches began hand-selecting the athletes from the company's Leopards and Cheetahs youth lineups based on their individual skills, setting the wheels in motion.
Although selected for the Tigers, athletes also retained their duties with the Leopards and Cheetahs. That means two routines to memorize, two extra practices each week, extra tumbling and stretch sessions and lots of extra fundraising to help offset the cost of the trip.
"We've had to practice and practice and practice," Tigers captain Peyton Richards, a nine-year-old base, said.
But all the extra work has certainly been paying off. The club is off to one of its best starts to the competition season - January to May - of all time. The Tigers have won all three events they've entered this season, and have garnered the Level 1 champion award - the highest points total of all Level 1 teams, regardless of age - in their past two outings. They've also landed the best innovative choreography award on one occasion. Those awards go with multiple wins from the club's other teams this season.
"It's not easy for younger girls to be beating older girls at the same skills," Tigers coach Jen Roberts said of the Level 1 champion award wins. "So they definitely have the skills they need. It's just getting out there and performing and hitting it."
If they can do that, Roberts said she feels the Tigers have the chance at a Top 5 finish, a huge accomplishment at such a talent-stocked event. But from what she and co-coach Amanda Johnson have seen so far this year, the Tigers are capable.
"We've given them the opportunity to be able to do it, but they have to actually go out there and want it and fight for it," Roberts said. "It's up to them. It's all in their hands now. But they definitely can."
The coaches have pushed their girls from Day 1 and it's something the athletes are grateful for.
"They've been tough on us," Richards said. "But that's a good thing. We want them to be hard on us so we can be better."
Not only has joining the team become a big responsibility for the athletes, but their families as well. In cheerleading, just one missing athlete can throw off the whole team's routine and dock the squad points. But Roberts said Tigers families have been outstanding at making sure athletes are where they need to be for competitions, practices, get-togethers and fundraising functions.
It's all formed somewhat of a family, especially amongst the athletes, who are always together even while away from the club.
"They're all really good friends with each other, they go to each other's birthdays and hang out together," Roberts said. "They are a very close team, they definitely love their team that's for sure."
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Kyra Shearer - base
Peyton Richards - base
Paige Christensen - base
Brooke MacDonald - base
Alyssa Rice - back
Brenna Morris - base
Kaleigh McPhee - base
Hanna Lewis - base
Lily McCabe - base & top
Rosyln Luscombe - back
Hanna Gonzales - top
Brooke Dash - top
Makayla Cameron - top
Jessica MacFarlane - back
Jaslynn Conley - top & back
Jaylah Bragg - top
Kloey Newby - top
Janna MacLean - top