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Road to Nationals: Cheer takes 1st at NCA

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Senior Madison Moore flashes a beaming smile during the dance portion of the routine.

Senior Madison Moore flashes a beaming smile during the dance portion of the routine.

Senior Madison Moore flashes a beaming smile during the dance portion of the routine.


A sparkly green-bowed athlete completes a complex series of flips across a blue mat. Without missing a beat, she hurriedly races to her next spot to be catapulted into the air in a high-flying stunt by her teammates. There’s no time to catch her breath after she dismounts however, as she must now perform a vigorous jump combination followed by a flashy dance sequence without flaw, all whilst maintaining a radiant smile. Such is the life of an Arlington High School cheerleader on the Nationals competition squad.

After pouring her soul into the 2 ½ minute routine, she must wait in pain-staking suspense as the other schools showcase their performances, and finally, for the results to be announced. “In 3rd place we have Lake Ridge High School from Salt Lake, Texas”. The team clutches each other’s hands in prayer. “Taking 2nd place is Marchmont High School, from Washington, Vermont.” This is it. Six months of blood sweat and tears all come down to this moment. “Our 2017 NCA grand champions are…”

The Arlington High competitive cheer squad clenched the title of National Champs in the small novice division in the National Cheerleading Association’s High School Championships, after receiving no deductions (or “hitting zero” in cheer lingo) on both competing days. This is the first time in nearly a decade the school has earned this honor, their last win happening in 2010.

“The whole experience still feels so surreal,” junior Savannah Hale said. “I am extremely proud of my team and for the hard work we put in. It feels amazing to work for something and for it to pay off, and I believe we truly earned it!”

Their road to championships wasn’t without obstacles, however. The girls in green faced many barriers before they got their title. Among these deterrents was the high number of injuries the group had to deal with during training.

The nationals team poses at practice alongside their coach Cody Hoffman, showcasing this years theme, “We Declare War”. Their intense practices were held at the Spirit Of Texas Gym every week, where they perfected their pyramids, tightened their technique, and conditioned like crazy. Junior Savannah Hale said “the whole team always gave 110% because we all had this dream of winning that we wanted to make a reality.”

“I had to tumble on my fists every day because this cyst I got on my wrist. It got so big that my team even named it, Bob,” senior Mallory Moore shared while chuckling. “I wasn’t supposed to do half the flips I did, but I did them anyway. They were hard to do though, because tumbling on my fists doesn’t ‘absorb’ any of the pressure, so I would always get a huge shot of pain to the point where I couldn’t breathe, but I just pushed through.”

One of the cheerleaders, senior Abby Kauffman, underwent major back surgery last year, and had to perform all the jumps, stunts and flips with two titanium metal rods planted inside her back.

“Every single time we did absolutely anything it hurt her, every time,” senior Kendall Price said of her teammates tenacity. “She told us how it was painful to even walk, but how she didn’t want it to let us down.”

Senior Abby Kauffman details the excruciating pain she endured throughout every practice, all the way up to the day of competition.

“For me what hurt the worst was when we’d cradle from stunts. My back would slam onto my group’s arms and I could feel the metal rods rub against my skin, shooting this sharp pain up and down my back,” Kauffman said. “Every time this happened I wanted to bawl my eyes out. It may sound over dramatic, but I can’t describe how much pain I was in. It was unbearable.”

Senior Abby Kauffman and sophomore Macee Harden flash a smile with their trophy.

Though the agony of competing with the rods in her back was great, Kauffman’s perseverance to win exceeded her pain.

“We got to the competition and let me tell you, the moment we stepped foot on that mat, it was all worth it,” she said. “Every ounce of pain I endured was 100 percent worth it. Nationals is the best part of cheer for me, and the thought of not competing was far worse than going through the pain.”

This iron-clad determination wasn’t just instilled within the girls, but also their coaches. When asked who or what had the greatest impact on their success, most of the girls echoed the same sentiment. “Cody!” they’d say with resounding praise.

“He told us multiple times he never had a team that cared this much or worked this hard, and that just really stuck with us I think,” sophomore Molly Brown said. “He got us all in the mindset of ‘let’s win this for Cody’. He was just amazing.”

Cody Hoffman, the team’s instructor and choreographer, shared similar feelings of endearment towards the committed group of ladies.

“In the 10 years I have coached cheerleading, this team was one of the most, if not the most dedicated teams I have had the pleasure to work with,” Hoffman said. “Every practice since the start in August of 2016, we have NEVER had an absence at a practice. These young ladies would never bat an eye to practices or even extra practices added.”

Through these additional practices, countless hours of conditioning and tiresome full-outs, the team made it to the NCA, where they competed against 25 other teams in the small novice division for the title of national champions. With numb legs and hearts beating through their chests, senior Madison Moore describes the feeling of waiting backstage before the performance as unnerving but riveting.


Senior Savannah Silva chants to the audience during their nationally ranked cheer performance.

“Waiting backstage is the worst feeling ever, but I love it so much. There’s so much nerves,” Moore said. “I literally had to put my hands on a wall to force myself to breath. When we walked on the mat, my legs were numb. My exact thought was thought was, ‘how am I gonna do this routine without any legs?’.”

When the music started playing, however, all the feelings of anxiousness melted away. The knots in their stomachs suddenly untied themselves, and a sort of mental switch turned on.

“I was flooded with adrenaline and just developed a laser focus,” senior Mallory Hartley said. “While we’re dancing, all we see are the huge bright lights that shine down on us, which is good in a way because then you don’t have to see the judges faces, but it was still really nerve wracking.”

After nearly three minutes of full-out, the girls shrieked in excitement, bolted to their teammates and embraced each other with hugs. They’d accomplished what they’d set out to do since August. They completed the routine with zero stunt falls, no bobbles, executed every skill, and became this division’s number one team in the entire nation.

“The simultaneous feelings of shock, pride, and over-elated happiness I felt when being declared a national champion was unlike anything I ever thought it would be,” senior Madison Moore said. “It is an experience I will never forget.”


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Road to Nationals: Cheer takes 1st at NCA