The defending national champion St. Joseph’s Academy cheerleaders finished fourth in the 2019 National High School Cheerleading Championship, held on February 9 and 10 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando. The squad competed in Super Varsity Division II.
The SJA cheerleaders began the competition as one of 28 teams in Saturday morning’s semifinal round. Overcoming a few mistakes, the cheerleaders advanced to the finals on Saturday night. On Sunday, the team was among the eight squads competing in the World School Cheerleading Championship against cheerleaders from Super Varsity Divisions I and II as well as other countries, including Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada. The girls captured the silver medal.
Coach Chelsea Milazzo expressed her pride in the cheerleaders’ efforts. “This has been an incredible year, and the girls have worked so hard,” she said. “The girls had so many bonding moments this year at nationals, and they are already fired up to begin a new season. I was extremely proud of the girls’ character at the competition, and it was amazing to see and hear how other teams loved, admired and cheered for the Stickers. It was a true testament to us that it’s not about the placement; it’s about the process.”
Moderator Lauren Morris said that as the defending the champions, the cheerleaders were under added pressure to perform well. While the squad fell short of its goal of retaining the title, Morris said the girls performed extremely well in the world championship. “We are so proud of what they have accomplished this year,” she said. “They have truly worked so hard. We really have something special here with SJA cheerleading: They are looked up to and cheered on by so many other teams. We can’t wait to see how this program continues to grow each year.”
Moderator Brooke Haigler said it was an incredible season with a great finish. “Finishing fourth in nationals and second in the World School Cheerleading Championship is definitely something these girls should be proud of,” she said. “Their last performance as a team was an emotional one and definitely one to be remembered. I loved being able to watch the girls bond with other Louisiana teams at nationals and see how other teams really look up to our SJA girls. It was a very humbling experience, and we are all excited to get next season started.”
Captain Anna Claire Rabalais, a senior, said the competition was one of the best experiences of her life. “The relationships I have made with everyone on the team will last forever, and I will definitely miss being on this team,” she said. “I am so proud of the outcome. We have worked so hard, and it showed during our last performance when we hit our routine. This team is awesome.”
Junior Kaylyn Ainsworth said the squad left everything out on the mat. “Even though I was upset in the beginning about not placing first, I realize that it is not about winning,” she said. “It is about growing as a team, giving it our all in every routine and, most importantly, having fun while doing what we love. I am super excited for next season, and I am ready to begin the journey of aiming for the top of the podium next year.”
Sophomore Emma Grace Shannon said the silver-medal finish in the world competition was extremely gratifying. “We didn’t care what place we got, we just wanted to end the season off with a hit,” she said. “We performed, and it was perfect. We all cried tears of joy because of the amazing routine we had just done. Getting second was absolutely amazing.
“This team means the world to me, and the competition made us stronger as a team,” Shannon added. “Although it might not be the outcome we wanted, it still was an amazing way to end the year. I love my team so much, and I wouldn’t have wanted the weekend to go any differently. I feel like it happened for a reason and that it made us stronger in the end.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Lauren Morris and Lisa West