ORLANDO, Fla. — “We’re gonna say another prayer.”
That was the direction from Casey County High School cheerleading coach Susan Stringer as her squad waited to take the sport’s biggest stage Saturday at the National High School Cheerleading Championships at Disney World.
Apparently, some sort of “spirit-ual” connection was made, as the Rebel cheerleaders nailed their routine before about 10,000 squealing spectators at the HP Field House at Disney’s ESPN complex.
“That was the best they’ve ever done it. It really was,” an excited Stringer said afterward.
Alas, it wasn’t enough to carry the Rebels — making their first trip to the nationals — to the finals of the large co-ed division later Saturday night.
“The water was very deep, very deep,” Stringer said of the level of competition on display. “But we showed we belonged here.”
Casey County was among 475 squads from 33 states, including about a dozen from Kentucky, that earned their way to the Universal Cheerleading Association’s national championships.
A contingent of about 100 family and friends made the trip to support the squad.
Raw emotions were on full display throughout the day, with cheerleaders often coming off the stage in tears believing they had botched their performance. Stringer’s call for an extra prayer was motivated by a serious case of feeling the pressure that overcame the squad as they waited backstage for their turn.
“You should have seen them during warm-ups. It was nerves. It was a total meltdown, a total meltdown,” she said.
That backstage breakdown had melted away beneath the bright lights of the actual performance of their routine, part high-flying aerials and tumbling done to throbbing club music and part more traditional floor cheer.
They had been working on it since the beginning of the school year and seemed to hit on all cylinders at Disney World.
“It was amazing. It was the best 21⁄2 minutes of my life,” senior co-captain Chris Lee said afterward.