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Cheerleaders Make Right Moves

The Aspetuck Wildcats cheerleading teams hope that their hard work, training three times a week at Joel Barlow High School, will pay off later this season. The teams, which have won multiple national championships, started out with nightly workouts in early August.

The cheerleaders won first place in 2009 at nationals in the 11-year-old division ; the 10-year-old division in 2007 and '08; the 13-year-old division in 2006; and the 10- and 11-year-old divisions in 2005.

Aspetuck's teams will begin local competitions in mid-October. The top teams advance to regionals in November, and the nationals are held in December in Florida. Maria Terrell, who coaches the Wildcats' 12-year-old cheerleaders, directs a team of 27 girls, 21 of whom were on last year's championship team. Aspetuck's cheerleading and football teams draw from Weston, Easton and Redding.

"Each year the team has different strengths,'' says Maria, who has been coaching for nine years. "Last year, our strength was our motion, and they were good with stunts. This year, we have some great tumblers, and our strengths are a little different."

Competitive cheerleading incorporates gymnastic movements. The girls run and chant while performing handsprings and tumbles and building human pyramids. During the 2 1/2-minute routine, the girls are in constant motion. "It's a lot of fun,'' says Catie Dotson, who has been cheerleading for five years and has been on three national championship teams. "It gets harder as you get older, and you learn new things."

The coach attributes Aspetuck's success to help from students at Weston and Joel Barlow high schools. "These girls have a true commitment,'' Maria says. "They have a true love of cheerleading." Carol DeSalva, Allie Neff, Alyssa Rosa, Chase Liebow and Kyle Wallin assist Terrell's team this year.

Maria says her young girls remain dedicated but need to stay focused. "I had to give them the spiel on Sunday,'' she said after a recent practice. "Either we're a competitive team or we do it just for fun. You have to remind them at least once a week that we're a competitive team."

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