Taking a pause on fitness-related content to share a story with you all – a story about perseverance, grit, hard work, and overcoming obstacles. And, truly, this should inspire all of you who are attempting to meet health and fitness goals. It’s a long game and it takes dedication and commitment, no matter what.
Faithful blog readers will recall that one of my daughters is in all-star cheer. All-star is different from school cheer. It’s the cheer featured in the Netflix documentary, Cheer, and it’s what you see if you happen to tune into ESPN this time of year and see the crazy stunting styles of the NCA teams in Florida. Lucia came home one day and asked if she could cheer. I had no idea even where or how? But, we figured it out and four years later, she’s completing her fourth season and, wow, this past weekend was a doozy.
End-of-Season Cheer Events
All-star cheer culminates in many end-of-season events across the country that require bids to compete. Our gym, New York Icons, typically goes to the Regional Summit and Summit Championships run by Varsity. It also has a World’s team and attends that competition, as well. Regional is for youth teams, the younger girls under 13 years old. The Summit, held at Disney World, is for junior and senior teams, the older girls. This year, Lucia is a crossover athlete, meaning she cheers for two teams, one is a youth and one is a junior. So, she attends both end-of-season events since both teams received bids for those respective events. Anyway, I digress but I wanted to set the stage.
The Northeast Regional Summit was held April 9-10 in Richmond, Virginia. I had been dreading this trip for months. I hate driving and knew the 10-hour trip would be hard for me to do alone. I tried to book a flight, but it was way too much money and hard to schedule, not knowing her cheer schedule. I tried to get my husband to take us but we couldn’t find care for our son for while we were gone and didn’t want to take him and his sister due to missing school and the extra cost. Cheer is expensive and money is tight. I tried to find a carpool but everyone had someone to drive with–so, it would be Lucia and me.
Northeast Regional Summit Day 1
The trip down took more than 10 hours. The horrific traffic was just unreal. I never left the car for six and a half hours! But, we made it, went to bed at a decent hour and got up early for Day 1. Now, her team, Prodigy, has faced a ton of obstacles this year. Kids came and went from the team; kids got COVID-19, kids got injured. You name it, it happened. Just a struggle. In fact, the team wasn’t even ready for its first competition and had to pull out. By some miracle, we got a bid to the Regional Summit at our first competition (actually the second but first one at which we actually competed). The kids worked and worked to get to a place where they were going to be a force. I recall that Lucia struggled with the dance. It was a lot faster than she was used to and dance is her weakest link anyway. Finally, they were scoring better and winning! They were headed into this Regional weekend feeling pretty good.
But, if I can focus on just Lucia for a minute. The Monday before the Regional, she rolled her ankle coming down from a jump (she’s a point jumper for both of her teams – the one front and center). She stayed home from school one day it hurt so badly. It wasn’t 100 percent when we arrived in Virginia but Tylenol and an ankle brace were keeping her together. Plus, our household was hit with COVID, finally, after all this time. My son had it and my husband wasn’t feeling well. Lucia and I stayed as far away as we could prior to leaving but when we got there, she had a sore throat and wasn’t feeling great. She ended up testing negative three times so not sure what was going on but she wasn’t 100 percent. OK, back to the story.
Day 1 the girls looked great. Everything was hitting and they were loving life up on that mat and then, it happened. The left side of the pyramid was unsteady and then just sort of melted to the ground. One of the girls was dry-heaving and we found out after she had actually gotten sick. Everything that happened in the remaining 30 seconds was off. The girls came off the mat in tears. It had all gone so horribly wrong. The athlete who got sick had anxiety/nerves. She wasn’t ill. But, still, it caused an implosion and major deduction for the routine. They were devastated. There was still Day 2 but they knew there was only a slim chance of victory after that performance.
A Second Chance?
Lucia and I made our way back to the hotel sadly. She was silent on the ride back. Quietly, I took her hairpiece out and she removed her makeup while we talked about finding some macaroni and cheese, her favorite, to make it all better. And then I got a text. The team mom was calling everyone back to the venue. The judges were giving the girls another chance! They could do another full-out (the entire routine) and the judges would simply score from the pyramid on. The rest of the score would stand. Lucia immediately burst into tears. “I can’t! I can’t! She screamed…because we literally had minutes to get her hair back in, makeup redone and back to the venue which was about a 15 minutes drive plus parking. A few frantic minutes later we learned we had 45 minutes. “Plenty of time!,” I calmly told her! And got to work redoing everything.
We made it back to the venue, paid for parking again, and rushed to meet the team. The girls were still kind of frantic. Some were still redoing makeup. They all looked tense. The coaches arrived and calmly talked them through the scores for their first run. They had done phenomenal. The judges obviously liked what they saw. Perfect scores in jumps, which made Lucia happy. It was easy to see why the coaches fought for that second chance. The girls had a shot at winning if they could keep hitting the routine.
They went back out and killed it… they just cheered their hearts out! At the end of the day they were only behind the first place team by .1! We went back to the hotel again, happier, and headed for the mac and cheese. Later that evening, after a long nap, Lucia felt awful again. I worried she was sick but she rallied to hang out with her team a little. We went to bed early again and luckily, the next day she felt better, just still had a sore throat and laryngitis.
Northeast Regional Summit Day 2
Day 2, the girls knew they had to pull it all out. It would be their last performance as a team and they were within striking distance of the title. After we dropped them off for check-in we got a text from the coaches. The scores were miscalculated, we were actually in the lead by the tiniest of margins – .04! We discussed whether we thought the girls should know or not and waited with bated breath for their performance. And, wow, did they deliver. The best performance they ever did. We were crying, the girls were crying. It was just amazing. We agreed no matter what happened, we won. Those girls overcame everything. They gave it all they had and that is winning, no matter what the score says.
Then came the awards. We were up against 10 teams, one of the largest, if not the largest division at the Regional Summit. So, the announcer started with 10th place and worked his way back. We waited, phones in hand, ready to see if they would pull it off. And he said, “In second place….New…. Jersey Premier All Stars!” Hanging on that New had us on pins and needles. They won!!! Not only did they win, they were in the running for Grand Champions, which is the highest score of the entire event. They were sized for rings, in case they won. They ended up not winning that one but still. What a weekend. What a season. One of the coaches said she’s coached for 22 years and this will go down as one of the most memorable of her career.
These kids. This sport. There are no words. They learn how valuable hard work is. How you never give up. How even when one person struggles, the team lifts them up. It’s an expensive sport and I complain bitterly about the money and the travel. But at the end of the day, if she loves it and she’s learning these life lessons, I suppose it’s worth it. Money isn’t everything and we’ll survive, right? Lucia, on the other hand, will thrive.
If you made it this far through my story, congratulations! I hope it inspired you as it inspired me. Below is a photo gallery from the event, as well as a video of their final, amazing performance. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!