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Terrell Cheers on Her Girls

Maria Terrell brings passion, pride and discipline to the cheerleading program of the Aspetuck Wildcats . All three are essential components to a squad that has won national championships in each of the past five years.

The most important trait Maria brings to the program, however, is experience. She has been part of the Aspetuck cheerleading team for nine years. Her older daughters, Giuliana and Michaela, started when they were in the fifth-grade and are now cheering at Lehigh University. Maria started over with younger daughter Caroline, who began as the Wildcats' mascot when she was 4.  She now coaches 12-year-old Caroline's team, which begins its quest for another national title this weekend in local competition at Brien McMahon High School.

"I'm just thrilled to be with the girls and watch them develop over the years,'' says Maria, a former high school cheerleader who brings as much energy to practices as do the girls. "It's unbelievable to watch them develop from little girls into beautiful young woman. If I can give them little life lessons along the way, that helps, too."

Cheerleading is a year-round activity for Maria and her girls. They begin five-night-a-week sessions in August and practice three times a week from September through most of December if they advance to national competition. They also perform once each weekend at games. Maria starts putting the program together for the next year shortly after the season ends. The girls attend cheerleading camps and training centers when they aren't preparing their routine. "It truly is 11 months of the year,'' Maria says.

Nine years in a volunteer activity is an eternity. Maria enjoys it as much as the day she started. "It's still as big a thrill as it was in my first year,'' she says. "I dream about it all the time. I dream about the girls. There's no place else I'd rather be."

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