Three Revere Junior Patriots Pop Warner cheerleading squads are already among the best in New England.
The 55 cheerleaders, ages 8 to 15, and three coaching staffs will now have the opportunity to earn the title of best in the United States at the 2012 National Cheer Championships that are being held in Lake Buena Vista, Florida in December.
The Revere A, C, and D squads qualified for the Nationals as a result of their high finishes in the New England Regionals held Saturday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.
The C squad, the defending national champions under the direction of coach Melissa Elam, finished first in the New Englands. The A squad, led by head coach Meredith Stavrinos, and the D squad led by head coach Gina Raffa, qualified for Nationals as New England finalists.
Revereâ€™s successful journey has included stops at Lawrence High School for the Greater Boston League competition, Tsongas Arena in Lowell for the Eastern Mass. finals, and the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield the past two weekends.
The squads performed a two-and-a-half minute routine at each competition in front of a panel of judges. The girls began indoor practices at Teamworks on Charger Street on August 1 in preparation for the season and the competitive part of their schedule.
Raffa moved up to coach the D squad after leading the E squad a year ago. Her daughter, Julianna, is one of the squadâ€™s 20 cheerleaders.
â€œThey performed well in exhibitions last year and a majority of that squad moved up to the D squad this year,â€ said Raffa.
Raffa had a noteworthy rookie season as the D head coach.
â€œThis is Ginaâ€™s first year coaching a competitive team and she has taken them to Nationals and thatâ€™s quite an accomplishment,â€ lauded Kristen Ternullo-Karshis, assistant coach of the â€˜Aâ€™ squad.
â€œI had good support behind me,â€ explained Raffa about her first season.
Elam is returning to ESPNâ€™s Wide of Sports Complex with some of the cheerleaders who took home the national crown last year.
â€œWeâ€™re hoping to come back with another national championship trophy,â€ said Elam, a former Revere High cheerleader.Â â€œWe were cautiously optimistic that we would qualify again for Nationals.â€
What has propelled the â€˜Câ€™ squad to the brink of another national title?
â€œI just have a great group of girls,â€ said Elam. â€œTheyâ€™re very dedicated. They are committed to practicing every night. They do whatever they can outside of our practices â€“ they take tumbling classes in the off season and some have dance training. These girls are really good athletes.â€
Elam said cheerleading has become a widely popular and competitive activity, more so than when she cheered in high school.
â€œItâ€™s more of a goal now for the girls, something more to reach toward,â€ said Elam. â€œThey enjoy cheering at the football games and supporting the boys but the girls now have their own goals to aspire to.â€
Board member Tracey Sullivan, whose twin daughters Taylor and Jordan compete for the â€˜Câ€™ squad, said Elam has done a superb job as the coach.
â€œIn Melissa we trust â€“ thatâ€™s our slogan,â€ said Sullivan. â€œWhatever she tells us to do, we do. Melissa does a phenomenal job.â€
Stavrinos, who won a national competition as a cheerleader at Pope John High School, said she is proud of her A squad.
â€œI am so proud of every single one of these girls,â€ said Stavrinos. â€œCompeting at a national cheerleading competition is an amazing accomplishment and something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Disney her we come!â€
Carolyn Demers also receives much credit from the coaches for her role as the cheerleading coordinator for Revere Pop Warner the past two seasons.
The squads are in the process of raising funds for the trip to Florida. The trip will cost more than $55,000 for the three squads.
The organization hosted a pasta dinner at the Revere Moose, who donated use of the function hall. The cheerleaders participated in a canning day and are selling calendars. On Saturday, November 17 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) the American Legion has donated the use of its hall for a Revere Junior Patriots cheer-a-thon that will be feature fundraising events throughout the city including some door-to-door visitations.
â€œWe welcome local business people and public officials to come by the American Legion and make a donation or a sponsor a child,â€ said Sullivan.