When Revere Pop Warner Junior Patriots ‘C’ cheerleading coach Melissa Elam assembled her squad for practices back in August, she had a good feeling about the season ahead.
“The girls just clicked well together from the beginning,” said Elam.
The optimistic outlook was right on the mark and then some. Elam and assistant coaches Anna Mendonca and Drew Nagy would ultimately lead their talented squad of 12 girls (ages 9-10) to unprecedented heights: a Pop Warner national championship.
Indeed the ‘C’ squad made Revere Pop Warner history on Dec. 6 when it captured the first place trophy in the Small Novice Division at the National Pop Warner Cheerleading Championships held at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, which is also home to Disney World.
“Winning the national championship was an amazing accomplishment,” said Elam. “I was so excited for all the girls. It was really emotional when they announced our squad as national champions. There were tears of joy.”
Other Revere squads through the years had qualified for the national finals (including this year’s ‘A’ squad which finished sixth in the country), but the 2011 ‘C’ squad was first to the top of the gold medal stand.
On the road to Disney World, Revere won GBL, Eastern Massachusetts, and New England regional titles.
At the National Championships the Revere squad competed against 15 teams from across the country. The Revere girls performed a two-and-a-half-minute routine that consisted of jumps, tumbling, stunting, somersaults, cartwheels, round-offs, front-back walkovers, a pyramid, and synchronized movement to a mix of songs.
Then came the real drama when the judges announced the top five teams, beginning with the fifth-place winners.
“I was hopeful because they hadn’t announced us as one of the runners-up (second through fifth),” said Elam. “It was very emotional when they announced us as the national champion. There were tears of joy.”
The journey to the national title began at Teamworks, an indoor facility on Charger Street where the cheerleaders practice three nights a week (four nights a week through most of August before the school year begins). The C’ coaches had begun working on the squad’s routine well in advance of the first practice. Elam said some of the other coaches in the program, including ‘A’ coach Kristen Ternullo, helped them choreograph their routine.
Elam has great memories of her own cheerleading career. She cheered in Revere Pop Warner, at Revere High School, where current assistant superintendent of schools Ann Marie Costa was her coach, and at Bryant University in Rhode Island where she earned her degree.
Elam said being a cheerleader gave her the self- confidence to speak and perform in front of groups of people. She feels her cheerleaders have benefited from their experience in the program.
“The girls have become quite the performers,” said Elam. “They’ve definitely gained a lot of self confidence because they’re ready to get out there and they’re focused and they have incredible energy. They’re just amazing.”
The ‘C’ squad has been honored by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, including State Rep. Kathi Ann Reinstein and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo. The Revere City Council will present citations to the ‘C’ and ‘A’ squads at its Jan. 9 meeting.
At the awards banquet, the Revere ‘C’ cheerleaders will receive trophies and a special gift that will surely have the words ‘National Champions’ on it.
“I haven’t worked on my speech yet but I’m sure I’ll speak about each of my girls and what an incredible year it’s been for the whole organization,” said Elam. We had two cheerleading squads make it to nationals and the ‘B’ squad made it all the way to regionals. Our ‘B’ football team made it to the Eastern Mass. championships and other teams had great seasons as well. There will be a lot of proud coaches making speeches that night.”