When the Maple Grove Senior High School Varsity and Junior Varsity competition cheerleaders returned to Minnesota from the National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla., they didn’t bring sunshine and warm weather, but they did bring home an experience of a lifetime.
The Varsity team finished their season ranked 29th in the country, while the JV team placed seventh nationally. Both represent the highest national rankings ever for the teams.
“When we started building a competition program two seasons ago, we hoped to get Maple Grove on the national map within a few seasons,” said varsity co-coach Steve Powers. “Like with all successful endeavors, it’s taken time, effort and commitment from everyone involved — the athletes, their families, and the coaching staff — to get the teams to a place where they are seriously competitive.”
And competitive they are. According to Powers, the varsity team hasn’t placed lower than second at any local or regional competition over the past two seasons, and has only been defeated by East Ridge HS, one of the top 10 teams in their division in the country.
The National High School Cheerleading Championship featured 585 teams from 35 states, competing in multiple divisions based on team size and school size, the largest and most competitive of which was Maple Grove’s division — Small Varsity Division I. This division had over 60 teams vying for the national championship, all of which competed in a preliminary round. The top teams then advanced to semifinals and, ultimately, finals. For the first time in their history, Maple Grove advanced out of the preliminary round into semifinals, where they earned their final ranking of 29th in the country.
“The kids were spectacular and represented our community so well,” said Program Director Kristen Myers. “After 10 months of practice, and so many ups and downs throughout the season, it was great to see the team peak at the moment of truth. We couldn’t have been more proud of them.”
Not to be outdone, the junior varsity team entered the event as a huge underdog to advance out of the preliminary round into the final round of competition. The preliminaries featured a who’s-who of high school cheerleading powerhouses from Kentucky, Alabama and other states well-known for premier competition cheerleading programs.
“The team understood that we had to have our best performance of the year in order to even have a chance to make the top 8 and advance to Finals,” said Myers. “Instead of letting the pressure get to them, they rose to the challenge and had an amazing prelims performance.”
Still, the coaches and team members weren’t sure it would be enough to advance. “We knew we had a chance, but when they announced finalists, and Maple Grove was on the list, you can only imagine how the kids felt,” said Myers.
And like their older counterparts on the varsity team, the JV members stepped up and replicated their achievement from prelims in finals. When the dust settled, Maple Grove JV finished the season ranked seventh in the nation, just 10ths of a point away from a top five finish.
“It was a great season for all of our teams, and we couldn’t have drawn up a better end to the season,” said Myers. “But as satisfying as this year has been, our work isn’t done. Now that the kids have tasted success on the national scale, they are ready to work their tails off to make it happen again next year.”
And next year doesn’t start long from now. Tryouts for both the sideline and competitions teams will take place in April. Cheerleading experience is not necessary, although a gymnastics or tumbling background is helpful. For more information about the program, visit www.crimsoncheer.com.