Editor’s Note: Nikki Patrick was off on Tuesday. Today’s Patrick’s People was written by Andrew Nash.
The Cheer Pitt had never sent teams to the National Cheerleading Association All-Star Nationals in Dallas.
There were plenty of reasons to believe success wouldn’t be in the cards. First, there were 995 teams from across the country, in five divisions across five age groups. Second, The Cheer Pitt was a relatively small gym compared to some in other areas with multiple locations. Third, since The Cheer Pitt had never sent teams to nationals before, there was little reason to think that in the first year, there would be much to write home about.
“Our goal in Dallas, to be completely honest, was to not get last,” said Quentin Holmes, who runs The Cheer Pitt with his wife, Monica. “We just wanted to show that we can compete with the best.”
The Cheer Pitt took two teams, and they not only competed with the best, they beat the best. The Level I Youth (Under 11) team took home first place and the Level III Senior (Under 18) Co-Ed team took home fifth at the national competition.
“To put it in perspective, this is as big or bigger than Pittsburg State winning the national championship,” Holmes said. “There are teams from Alaska, New York, Alabama, and even from five countries represented at this competition.”
The teams dominated in their first nationals appearance. The Cheer Pitt, Holmes said, was among the smaller gyms in the competition — and there were 995 teams in the contest.
There were 109 teams split across Level I over the five age groups at nationals. The Cheer Pitt’s youth team had the third highest score overall in their level, and the highest score in their age group.
“We were almost like celebrities after we won, because random people would come up and ask to take a picture with us and the trophy because it was that big to them,” Holmes said. “Every member of the team got a leather jacket for winning, and the coaches got them, too. We had a couple of coaches come up to me asking to try it on, because they thought they’d never have a chance. They’d been coming for 16 years, and never come close to winning.”
And it wasn’t just the youth team.
“Our senior team is used to just winning. For them to get fifth in Dallas, they felt like they won because it’s such a prestigious tournament,” Holmes said.
There were added feats for the youth team. Many of the youth teams have an average age of a little more than 11, as some students turn 12 after the cut-off date. The Cheer Pitt’s youth team has an average age of 8.5, including a few 6-year-olds.
Page 2 of 3 - In addition to the leather jackets and the trophy, the youth team received another honor. They were among the 14 teams at the nationals to be selected for the “worlds.” Traditionally, worlds are for Level V teams, but a new, highly selective event is starting up this year called The Summit, effectively the worlds for Level I-IV teams.
“We were the only Level I team with a paid bid to that. The kids are entirely paid for while we’re there. The only expense is travel,” Holmes said.
What he didn’t say about the four-day event in May was that it was in Orlando, Fla. — in Walt Disney World. The competition itself is two days.
The teams weren’t the only ones honored at nationals in Dallas.
“On top of that, then my wife [Monica] received an award. They give one innovative best choreography award in the division, and she received that. They also freaked out, because she’d never been to their brand of competition before, and then she won for choreography.”
Quentin Holmes was still in shock Tuesday while recalling the event. He said that coaches from other gyms told him that The Cheer Pitt should expect a spike in attendance going forward, but Holmes said he doesn’t expect to see too big of a bump despite all the success.
“In this area, people don’t really know what we do,” he said. “In Texas and Southern California, this is sometimes bigger than football. It’s not rah-rah go team. It’s straight athletic ability. In talking to some gyms after we won the title, they said your numbers are going to skyrocket. They’re saying that based on their area. If they won, they’d be the cat’s meow. I’m not expecting that here. We’d take it, but we have to create an awareness of the sport.”
That’s an incredible success rate given the limited amount of time the Holmes have with the kids, often between 4-10 hours a week. And the grading standards in major competitions are strict.
“It’s tumbling, pyramid building, stunts, dance and jumps. Trying to get 14 kids, all 11 and under to all look like robots is kind of a task. They kind of want to flap around and do whatever,” Holmes said.
The Holmes are in the process of trying to build a facility to be more attractive and help the program grow even more.
Tryouts for the next season of cheer will be in May, and Holmes said they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/thecheerpitt or by calling 875-6243.
“For us, NCA is a huge, multi-million dollar company,” Holmes said. “They’ve been doing this for 27 years. Their head people found us and said it was surreal that a gym as small as yours, in the first time you’re here, won. Not just did well. But won.”
Page 3 of 3 - The youth team includes Carmen Kent, Maddie Narges, Lauren Narges, Brooklyn Crumpacker, Madison Miller, Sierra Keatts, Kamryn Bennett, Grace Kafka, Avery Thomas, Emma Kratz, Elle Slaughter, Gracie Peterson, Rachael White and Kaitlyn Kelso.
The senior team includes Aubri Ashbacher, Kylie Cowan, Tabitha Claeys, Lauren Burgess, Alexis Robinson, Stephanie Edwards, Michael Neatherlin, Bella McVay, Katie Richey, Ashley Hall, Kayley Cabalero, Erin Felker, Maggie Teel, Cara Clow, Makayla McNemar, Lake Robinson, Marcus Donham, Brooke Moskalski, Maiah Leonard, Makenna Moskalski, Haley Spears, Rebecca Spears, Heather Thomas, Madison Thomas, Katelynn Roberson, and Sophia Joseph.