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Cheerleaders Jump at Chance to Repeat at Nationals

WESTON, Conn. – Even after winning three straight national championships, the Aspetuck Wildcats 13-and-under cheerleading team keeps getting better. And so does their competition.

The Wildcats will compete in Orlando, Fla., this weekend seeking to win another American Youth Football and Cheer crown. They won the New England Regional in late November to earn the chance to defend their title. The 26-girl team has continued to raise its game over the years, as the teams looking to knock them off have improved their skills as well.

“It’s much tougher,’’ coach Maria Terrell said. “When we were at New Englands some of the routines were incredible. Everybody ups the ante.”

So do the Wildcats, whose team includes girls from Weston, Easton and Redding. Terrell has coached the team during its championship run.

“We started the year thinking we couldn’t improve upon last year,’’ she said. “We didn’t think there was any way it could get any better. But they pulled it together. It’s an unbelievable routine.”

Besides developing a new, more challenging routine, Terrell and her coaches keep the girls mentally challenged as well. It’s easy to rest when you’re on top. “Especially for the girls that have done it before, it’s hard to stay motivated for the entire season. But they do it. It’s almost like they reserve their energy. It keeps coming out the further you go.”

Thirteen girls have been with the team for the entire championship run. Four girls are new to the team this year, although three had cheer experience. For a few girls, this weekend’s competition will be their last with Aspetuck before they move on to high school.

The cheerleaders started out with practices five nights a week in August. Once school begins, the girls train three times a week. Each practice is two hours, and they are required to attend weekly football games in September and October. It’s a long season and is physically and mentally demanding. But the rewards are worth it as the Wildcats cheerleading teams have won eight national titles since 2005.

“Winning never gets old,’’ Terrell said. “They’re as excited as they were the first time they won.”

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