By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item
ORLANDO, Fla. - Milton Area High School’s cheerleading team leaped one place higher in the final standings Sunday at the Universal Cheerleading Association National High School Cheerleading Championship, held at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Complex.
The team, coached by Traci Ferguson, battled up to fourth from a fifth-place position Saturday.
The Panthers competed in the non-tumbling division, and finished with a final score of 83.86, up from 83.06 on Saturday. The scores for the fourth-, third- and second-place teams were all close, Ferguson said.
Ferguson and her team are thrilled with the outcome.
“I think it’s pretty awesome,” she said. “I just want the girls to be proud. ... They have accomplished so much this season, more than any team I have ever coached.”
Senior member Vicki Soltys agreed.
“I feel it was the best performance we ever did,” she said. “Everything went exactly how it was planned. I couldn’t ask for a better routine or a better team to do the routine with.”
Soltys said the best part of the routine was the opening stunt, the “giddyap,” where a cheerleader’s weight is on one foot that is held and raised by others. She then switches to her other foot, which is also held and raised by others, and grabs her other, outstretched foot. She then falls into the arms of her teammates.
For senior Danielle Yoder, the giddyap was the hardest part of the routine. Landing it, though, gave her the confidence to keep going.
“Right when I hit it, the nerves for the rest of the performance went away,” she said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better performance from each other.”
“For a first-year team to make it into the finals is a huge accomplishment,” Ferguson said, adding that she was thankful for all the support the team received. “I’m just so overwhelmed with gratitude from the response we’ve gotten from the community.”
On Sunday afternoon, before the final results were announced, several Milton residents showed a great deal of pride in their cheerleading team.
“I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled for them. Thrilled and proud,” said Ruth-Lee Sandel, the coach for Milton’s elementary school cheerleading team.
“The sky’s the limit” for the team, added Reanne Walter, who has children in Milton’s junior high and elementary schools.
“I think its absolutely outstanding,” said Pete Bergen, president of the school district’s booster club. “They’re all very polite, very mature young ladies. Whether they win or not, I hope the whole community of Milton comes out to welcome them back. We’re Panther proud of them.”