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Easton, Weston Girls Cheer for National Title

The Aspetuck Wildcats cheerleaders are headed to Orlando, Fla., this week for a competition. And it's not some Mickey Mouse contest, either.

The Division 12 cheerleaders from Aspetuck will be shooting for their third straight national championship this weekend in the American Youth Football and Cheerleading national championships. The girls, who are 12 years old or younger, won the local, state and regional competitions earlier this fall. The Division 14 team is also heading to Florida after finishing second in the Northeast. Aspetuck's program includes kids from the towns of Weston, Easton and Redding.

The competition, held at Disney World, is sponsored by Under Armour.

The girls are eager to get started. But they know their competition is just as eager to knock the Wildcats off their lofty perch. Rita Gordon, an 11-year-old student at Helen Keller Middle School in Easton, is wary. "There are some teams out there that really want to beat us,'' she said. "It's not going to be that easy." Caroline Terrell, an 11-year-old student at Weston Middle School, added, "I feel like we're under a microscope."

Caity Dotson, 12, who has been cheering since she was 3, says there's additional pressure because some team members are new to national competition. "I'm afraid they will be overwhelmed,'' Caity said.

The girls have been practicing since August. Maria Terrell coaches the girls with assistance from student volunteers Allie Neff, Chase Liebow, Carol DeSalva, Alissa Rosa and Kylie Wallin.

Caroline Terrell says the students have been a big part of the team's success. "They make us work hard, but they end up being your best friend,'' Caroline said. Added Caity: "It could be a perfect performance, they'll find something that we could have done better. They're awesome to work with."

Rita is nervous as the championships approach. One of the Wildcats' chief rivals is the Bedford, N.H., Jaguars, who took second in the Northeast competition. "I think the Jaguars are up there practicing, so we should be practicing,'' she said. "I feel like if I don't know what I have to do, then I'll let the team down."

Team members who have been on the past two championship teams for the Division 12 Wildcats include Nikki Wallin, Caroline Terrell, Claudia Gombos, Ally Stillman, Caitlin Dotson, Angela Socci, Emma Nayden and Alison Stauffer. Jacqui Goetz has also been a long-time Aspetuck cheerleader. Some started as team mascots when they were 3.

In the photo: Aspetuck Wildcats cheerleaders who competed on last year's national champions include: Kneeling, left to right: Melanie Gold, Kelsey Cina, Caroline Terrell and Rita Gordon. Back row, left to right: Jacqui Goetz, Emma Nayden, Rachel Garner, Alison Stauffer, Rachael Buddenhagen, Isabel Gautier and Caity Dotson.

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