Cheer Prepares to Return to Nationals after making History


Media by Shon Sayfuddinov

Abbey Gradle, varsity head coach, talks the team through a stunt at their Nationals Sendoff Showcase. The team holds a showcase for their routine each year before they leave for UCA Nationals in Orlando, and this year held it during Flex Time the day before they left. "I enjoy having the Nationals Sendoff because it lets us run the dance full out for an audience before we leave," Scognamiglio said. "It is good practice, and I enjoy showing our routine to other students and staff at Marquette."

Last year, varsity cheer made MHS history at UCA Nationals when they made it to finals for the first time, and this year they are hoping to make it again.

“I am so excited to go back and we are hoping to do even better,” Claire Scognamiglio, senior, said. “We set the bar high by making finals and placing 14th, but we have been putting in a lot of work, so I think we can do even better.”

Scognamiglio has been a member of cheer since her freshman year, and has been on varsity since her sophomore year.

“Each year we see what worked and what didn’t so we can make changes to ensure we are getting the most out of each practice,” Scognamiglio said. “Our practices this year have definitely been a lot harder, as we have been doing a lot of full outs of either the entire routine or specific parts to make sure we are prepared.”

Their team will first compete at Prelims to qualify for Semifinals. Then, they will compete at Semifinals to qualify for Finals, where they get to cheer in the arena with the famous Disney castle. 

Abbey Gradle, varsity cheer head coach, said she is hoping to make Finals again but most importantly wants the team to be proud of what they put on the floor.

Our main goal for Nationals is to execute our routine without any errors or drops,” Gradle said.  “We would love to experience the same thrills of advancing to Semis and then on to Finals again, but our precision must begin in the Prelims first.”

This year, the team implemented a structured warm-up and a conditioning routine to start each practice from a National Champion cheer coach they met at the Missouri Cheer Coaches Association Conference this past March. 

In addition to changing their warm up, the team started working and practicing with other teams like Liberty and Timberland to clean up their routines, keep energy and motivation up, and showcase their different skills.

“This has been a great way to collaborate with other athletes who know exactly what we are going through and this also takes the attention off of the personal pressures for a little bit by cheering on others,” Gradle said. “Stress can become overwhelming at times, but we try to remind our girls why we do what we do. It is a challenge; if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.”

Cheer has a long season beginning in July, when they learn their routines, and continuing all the way through Nationals and the end of basketball season, but January is one of the most important months for the team.

“January is a huge growth sprout for stunting skills, as the Universal Cheer Association National High School Cheer Championship has different rules, routine length and expectations of skills than Missouri competitions,” Gradle said. “The demands are significantly higher, and we need to balance the most challenging skills that our athletes are able to execute on a consistent basis without falling.”

The team has already been consistent and has had a successful season, as they earned first at State in November.

Gradle said this moment set the tone for the team that they are on the right path. 

“It was so fulfilling to hear our name announced as State Champions and being able to provide this opportunity, challenge our girls in ways they never thought possible, and then watching them excel are by far some of my most favorite parts,” Gradle said. “It is a privilege to work together as a team towards this common goal.”

Ali Hart, senior, said that winning state was also her favorite moment from this year and she is hoping the team continues to be successful.

“My main goal is to hit our routine and leave everything we have on the floor with no regrets,” Hart said. “This team works so hard and has such a passion, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. I hope to make history with them again.”