The All-Star Cheerleading Team from River City Cheer and Gymnastics on Kalifornsky Beach Road took second place at PacWest Nationals on March 10 and 11 in Portland, Oregon.
The squad was competing at Junior Level 1, which is for teams of a certain skill level with athletes from 6 to 15 years old.
River City also did well in individual competition. Soldotna High School’s Avery Hart earned a national championship in Junior Level 3. Cari Winger, who coaches the team along with Jessica Seymour, said River City, which has been open for 12 years now, has only had a handful of national champions.
Kenai Middle School’s Cali Holmes was second at Junior Level 3 behind Hart, while Liberty Lasky was fourth at Youth Level 3.
“We were a fairly new team this year with a very wide age range,” Winger said.
Winger said in previous years, River City had enough athletes for an older team, but this year the older and younger cheerleaders had to be combined.
Of the 12 athletes on the team, four were 14 to 15 years old, while the rest were 6 to 11. Cheyenne Friedersdorff, Hart, Holmes and Sierra Stoaks are the older athletes.
“I believe our success had to do with older kids stepping up as role models and teaching the younger kids what they had learned and how to apply that,” Winger said, adding to team practices two hours per day for two days per week.
The younger athletes are Cara Graves, Jackson Anding, Sylvia McGraw, Ayden Russell, Lasky, Delilah Roberts, Destiney Friedersdorff, McKenzie Harden and Chloe Turner.
“They had a little bit of nationals experience,” Winger said of the younger athletes. “They really wanted to be there and do well for the older kids that had worked so hard for them.”
On each day of the competition, the team performed the same routine. River City was tied for first place after the first day, then was edged out on the second day.
Winger said despite the team’s youth, River City made it through both days without any deductions. Deductions come when a stunt comes down, when an athlete falls down while tumbling, or when a team does something that is a safety violation.
With the second-place finish, River City qualified for the U.S. Finals, an invite-only, end-of-year competition. The U.S. Finals are at several different locations. River City is aiming to be at the U.S. Finals in Las Vegas on May 12.