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The road to USA Nationals

Varsity cheer competes for the first time in twelve years
Fresno Christian cheer competes in USA nationals, Feb. 16.

The lights dim. An eerie quiet hushes the crowd. Only the slight rustle of pom-poms and thunderous heartbeats pounding from adrenaline can be heard as the judges welcome Fresno Christian Varsity Cheer to the stage. In unison, the war cry sounds, “1, 2, 3 FC YOU KNOW!” With that, the girls take the mat charging the crowd prepared to leave it all on the stage. 

The Eagles participated in the USA Spirit Nationals, Feb. 16. This marks the first time Fresno Christian has made an appearance at this competition since 2012. In previous seasons the squad took part in FCC nationals or competed in strictly regional competitions in the large squad traditional division. This year the Eagles found themselves joining the rapidly-evolving Crowd Leader division and bringing their routine to Anaheim, CA.

The Crowd Leader division, also referred to as “game day” cheer, showcases how a team can involve the crowd and pump up the spirit of their football team. There are four components to a game day routine: band dance, situational cheer, general cheer and fight song. 

The essential part of game day is the situational, where the judges will announce halfway through the routine a football scenario. It is the cheerleaders’ job to assess the situation, whether the team is on defense, offense, or a spirit cheer, and call a cheer according to the circumstances. This is no easy task as each cheerleader on the mat must be attentive and ready for any situation. 

Former FC varsity cheerleader and now assistant coach, Ashley Sciacqua, has worked alongside this team for their first year of crowd-leading. 

Gameday is the fastest-growing competitive cheer division in the nation.

“Game day is perfect for this year’s varsity team because this routine shows all our best attributes: the strong/loud voices, sharp motions, the technique, the jumps and tumbling, the facials, the continuous rallying, and the ability to lead a crowd for over 3 minutes,” Sciaqua said. “This team was made for this, and I couldn’t be more proud to be one of the coaches.” 

The road to competing in nationals started long before “comp-day.” Tryouts were held in early spring of 2023. The dedicated cheerleaders practiced three days a week during their summer, conditioning for the approaching season. To be eligible for upcoming competitions, the Eagles participated in a strenuous, three-day USA stunt camp. In late fall, the girls locked in for a back-to-back, 8-hour day to learn their competition routine. 

Practices were long and hard. Dec. 2 the Eagles pulled up to Buchanan High School to showcase their routine at the Central California Cheer and Dance CIF Invitational. Despite exhibiting (showcasing rather than competing), this offered the girls an opportunity to perform in front of a crowd before heading qualifiers. This performance was vital as it introduced the Game Day division to CIF and opened doors for it to be a serious division in future CIF competitions.

On Jan. 13, the Eagles headed down to the southern California USA nationals qualifiers. This is historically the most difficult location to qualify, but the girls succeeded in placing second. With this victory, they secured a spot in Anaheim.

FCC Azusa Pacific competition was held on Feb. 10, and all Fresno Christian Cheerleaders – Elementary, Middle School and High School – made the four-hour drive to compete for the Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders West Coast competition. Elementary took second with zero deductions. Middle school took first in their division with zero deductions. Varsity took first place in their division and this competition served as a necessary warm-up for nationals. 

The Eagles scored an 89.7 on the USA nationals cheer mat.

The FC Varsity team took the nationals stage, Feb. 16 and left it all on the mat. The girls were placed in the Super Squad Crowd Leading Division, along with 23 of the best from this division nationwide. Squads ranged from 24 to 50+ cheerleaders, making the FC team one of the significantly smaller teams, with exactly 24 members. Only 7 of the 24 competing teams moved onto the second competition day. Unfortunately, FC was not in the 29% and that marked the end of their competition season. 

Junior Milly Morgan is so proud of the team they had this year and can not wait to compete at this level again in the years to come.  

“Despite not placing the way we wanted to at nationals, we as a team were able to give it our all and perform to the best of our abilities,” Morgan said. “I’ll never forget the way it felt to come off the mat knowing we did something greater than just performing.”

Cheer is looking forward to another chance at nationals next season, and in the meantime, will focus on fine-tuning their abilities.

For more from the Feather read Snowboarding and skiing provide weekend getaway and Ice baths, cold showers, and cryotherapy provide quick fix to sore athletes.

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About the Contributor
Danielle Arndt
Danielle Arndt, Editor
Second-year journalist, Danielle Arndt, ‘26, continues her journey as a returning writer for The Feather Online. Arndt believes in the importance of integrity, dedicating herself wholly to whatever she puts her mind to. Self-proclaimed movie enthusiast, she loves immersing herself in the cinematic world, hiding from reality. Writing has always been the way she could express herself and the stories living rent-free in her mind. Arndt aspires to be an author, she cannot hold her excitement to grow in the fields of journalism.
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