I slowly looked around, detached from reality. The news hit me like a formidable black train. Silence coated the room filled of anxious yet unusually quiet cheerleaders like a heavy snow on the mountain peaks from where we came from. Every familiar face I could find grew cold and stern. All hopes of a national title flew out of the window before the judges could even mutter the two words that brought our world crashing down. "Illegal stunts. ” Nine months of sweat and tears, 4 years of commitment, all brought down in a matter of moments.
Less than ten minutes before my final national high school cheerleading competition and all the work my team and I put into our flawless routine no longer mattered. We had ten minutes to recreate a near-impossible routine and preform it for over 600 people. How could our coaches not know our routine was filled with illegal stunts? More importantly why did we travel 1,997 miles to be humiliated? I knew in that moment that the hard work, sweat, and tears that were supposed to pay off with a shiny gold metal and an adorable white silk national champ jacket, came down to one thought: “Can we pull this together? Before we could even wrap our heads around the situation that was being presented to us my team and I were being hastily rushed toward the overwhelming maze of two-story black curtains. I could hear the abundant crowd roaring on the other side. Our parents, eagerly waiting, had no clue the panic that was now instilled within us. Scott, my teams’ choreographer, sashayed through the groups of cheerleaders toward us. “Good luck, Ladies” he muttered, “Sorry about the sudden changes in your routine…I… I didn’t think anything was illegal. ” At wit’s end, I huddled my team together.
Taking turns, my co-captains and I shared some inspirational words and started singing our team song: “Lean on Me. ” Suddenly, we were united on stage in front of hundreds of people. Blinded by the spotlights in front of me, I glanced to my right only to see my coach. She clung to the side of the raised stage, barely able to see over, her emotions written all over her face, frustrated and scared. At that moment I knew she was just as nervous as we were. The moment all the hours practicing, the sore muscles, the obsession over cheerleading for 9 months straight was about to pay off, BOOM.
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The music was on and muscle memory kicked in. One dance step after another just happened without any thought. As the dance portion of the routine was over and the cheer portion slowed to an end, I knew our final pyramid was coming soon. Panic. No one was where she needed to be. It seemed as if we were ants being watched through a magnify glass, scurrying about with no real direction. Rushed and confused, we threw together what we could. “We can do this! ” I shouted to the girls. Finally some sanity as my bases threw me into the air, only to realize the other half of the team was struggling.
I was always taught to just keep going, so that’s what I did. The music continued to build, and the newly changed portion was finally here. My bases, consisting of my fellow captains, pushed me into the air. I reached out for the flyer next to me. Only there was no flyer next to me, and without her, none of this would work. I glanced over after hearing gasps come from the audience, only to see half my team on the ground, struggling and fighting to pull themselves up. The music ended. Silence. The last impression the judges and the crowd saw of us was complete pandemonium.
First place was out of the question. “With a routine like that, you will be lucky to make it any further. ” Our coaches starred at each of us as we walked shamefully backstage to watch our routine on the big TV monitor. One 8-count at a time we watched our dreams unfold and come crashing down, literally. Knowing that it wasn’t completely our fault, we joined the crowd to watch the rest of the competing teams. In the proceeding moments we learned that without the falls at the end, our routine was perfect-- filled with smiling faces, tight dance moves, and a high level of difficulty.
Due to those minor mistakes, however, our trip to Orlando was over without reward. The following morning, disappointed and heartbroken, my teammates and I boarded our flight back to the mountains. Looking back now, the memories created are irreplaceable whether good or bad. Sometimes all the hard work and effort doesn’t pay off in the way we hope for. Left with disappointed dreams, my duties as a cheer-captain were over and I was left with memories and a group of friends who could never be replaced. I didn’t get that national title, but at least we made it that far, which is more than many young girls could even hope for.
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