Members of the Fallsburg Pop Warner Midget cheerleading team which finished second in the National Championships held last weekend at Disney World: (Standing left to right): Jiovanna Gonzalez, Myra Olden King, Olivia Steigler; (center) Mercedes Gonzalez, Cassandra Reyes; (kneeling left to right) Kimberley Mahler, Mellia Kimble, Tiara Payton, Krista Novello, Cheyene Lapolt, Emily Bassett, and Makaela Bryden.
ORLANDO, FL December 20, 2013 Disney World certainly delivered on its promise to create memories and fulfill dreams for the Fallsburg Pop Warner Midget cheerleaders last weekend.
The 12-girl team finished second out of seven teams in the Midget Small PW1 Division of the National Championships held at Disney December 13.
For a bunch of girls who had never competed at the national level before, this was quite the accomplishment.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Fallsburg Pop Warner president Lewis Borko. “We had no expectations going in. And after watching, we thought we could be third or fourth.
“They introduce the winners from the bottom up and when they went through fifth, fourth and third without calling us, I thought, ‘we didn’t do that well.’
The Comets were then announced as the second-place finishers, just 1.5 points out of first on a 100-point scale.
For most of the girls, the trip to Orlando was more than just a national competition it was their first time on a plane, away from their parents, staying in a hotel and visiting Disney World.
“It was a great bonding experience for the girls,” said Borko, who admitted that some of the girls’ favorite part of the trip may have been swimming before the competition. “If they weren’t good friends before the trip, they are now.”
A determined fundraising effort prior to the trip covered almost all of the expenses “there was no out-of-pocket costs for any of the kids,” said Borko.
The team is comprised of 12 girls ages 11-15. They come from the Monticello, Liberty, Tri-Valley, Ellenville and Fallsburg School districts. The team members are: Emily Bassett, Makaela Bryden, Jiovanna Gonzalez, Mercedes Gonzalez, Mellia Kimble, Cheyene Lapolt, Kimberley Mahler, Krista Novello, Myra Olden King, Tiara Payton, Cassandra Reyes, and Olivia Steigler.
Their head coach is Keri Whitehead and Kierra Miller is the assistant.
“When Kierra and the girls told Lewis and I in August that they were setting their sights on Nationals we said, ‘Absolutely, we have been dreaming about this since the program started 10 years ago so why stop now,’” said Whitehead.
“Kierra choreographed a routine designed for them and these ladies executed. They worked so hard to take first in the State, then second at Regionals and when they announced we were going to Nationals at Disney I was floored. These girls just accomplished what we have tried to achieve for a decade. They made history!
“When it was announced we were the second best in the Nation, I was completely overwhelmed with emotion. I have never met a harder working, more dedicated, deserving group of girls. They are role models for the younger teams and for this community. I am honestly so proud of Kierra and these 12 young ladies. They proved nothing is impossible. This is such an amazing accomplishment for these girls and our program.”
Now done for the season, Borko is hoping the national attention will attract more girls come registration time in the spring.
“I believe this should certainly help build the program,” said Borko. “No other football/cheerleading association in Sullivan County has the ability to go to a national competition like we do [in Pop Warner].
If you’re interested in supporting the Fallsburg Pop Warner’s ongoing fundraising campaign, please contact Borko 845-866-0764 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org