A police escort from the airport and a massive celebration at Town Hall greeted Braintree's Pop Warner Cheerleaders on Sunday, after their first-place finish at the national cheerleading competition in Florida.
The 19 girls, ages 13 and 14, known as the “A-team,” prevailed last Friday against 12 other teams from around the country in the Midget Cheer Level 2 Medium division.
“It was the best performance and their energy in warm-ups was incredible,” said Head Coach Kelly Fichtner. “They went out and competed. We had a minor bobble, but they stayed up in the air and their routine was great, they did a great, great job.”
The team has been practicing five hours a week since August, fixing minor issues with their 2 1/2-minute routine until they had it perfected.
According to Fichtner, the experience was surreal, the girls performed with energy and finesse. When it came time for the awards, anxieties were high as judges gave out trophies to only the top five scorers.
“Every time they call a team, you sit there and think, ‘Is it going to be us?’, and when they called for second place, I knew right then that they had taken [first],” Fichtner said. “The girls were extremely excited. They were crying.”
Out of all 65 teams competing that day, even against girls in other divisions, the girls had the highest score and the highest choreography score.
For the entire week, the girls had the second-highest for choreography and the fifth highest for overall score. In other words, against divisions even more competitive and advanced than their own, the girls surpassed expectations, Fichtner said.
According to Fichtner, the DJ didn’t even have their music turned up all the way when the routine started, yet the girls didn’t miss a beat.
Though bittersweet, the win is a fitting end for 17 of the 19 girls on the team, who will leave behind their Pop Warner cheerleading career and move on to high school cheerleading.
For Fichtner, who has been with many of the girls on this team for 10 years, it has been a thrilling experience.
“With the 10 years I’ve been doing this, [with] this core group of girls, I was speechless. It was a memory and … when I was talking with these girls, it was something they said they would always remember…
“It was such an honor to coach them and teach them those lessons, go out there and give it your all. I was so overwhelmed having them winning their nationals. I can't believe they did it,” Fichtner said. “They won first place every single time. It was a huge accomplishment for me and the girls just to have done that.”
The office of Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan also plans to recognize the team during the Jan. 8 Town Council meeting.
For more information on the Braintree Pop Wanrer Cheerleaders, click here.