Pinelands Pop Warner Junior Peewee Cheer Squad Heading for National Championships

Nov 21, 2018
Courtesy of: Christina Petrauskas The Pinelands Pop Warner Devils Junior Peewee cheer team recently captured the East Region title and is headed for the Pop Warner Cheer & Dance National Championships in December.

During the spring season, Christina Petrauskas had told her Pinelands Junior Peewee cheer squad that if it fared well enough in competition, she would allow the crew to move up a level for the fall Pop Warner season. The Devils exceeded expectations and, as promised, they made the jump to Level 2.

“This is our first season at Level 2,” said the head coach, whose young cheer team is headed for the Pop Warner Cheer & Dance National Championships in early December. “The main difference between Level 1 and Level 2 had to do with the stunting and tumbling. At Level 1, the girls are restricted to stunts that are waist high. At Level 2, it’s shoulder-height stunting, and the tumbling is much more increased.

“I told them that if they could max out all their stunting and tumbling in our spring competitions, they could move up to Level 2. They showed they were ready to move up.”

Throughout the fall season, the Devils – whose girls are ages 8 through 11 – not only proved they belonged at the next level, they excelled, winning every competition in which they performed. They cruised through local events before winning the state title in Trenton in October, then captured their first East Region championship on Nov. 3, earning their bid to the national competition.

The National Championships are held annually at the Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Bay Lake, Fla., near Orlando. This year’s cheer and dance competition begins Dec. 1 and ends Dec. 7. The Junior Peewee Level 2 Division is slated to compete on the final day.

“We have a small team of nine girls, but they’re a hard-working, fierce group of kids and I have all the confidence in the world they’re going to do well,” said Petrauskas, who is assisted by Ashley Rinaldi, Kylie Thigpen, Bruce Stranahan and Holly Chadwick. “I’ve never coached a team so supportive of one another. A lot of times, cheer teams will have little cliques. But these girls really care about and love each other, and that definitely helps their chemistry on the mat.”

The team consists of Kayla Harris, Cara Stranahan, Holly Lucas, Kassidy Minor, Keira Jones, Kaylee De Freitas, Isabelle Santos, Ashlei Slinchak and Arianna Torres.

“After they won the regional championship, they were so happy they were crying,” Petrauskas said. “Five of our girls have been in the program for a while and to get to nationals is a big deal for them. But it’s really exciting for all of them because they’ve realized a dream is coming true now. All I can do now is try to keep them relaxed when we get there. That’s not going to be easy. They’re really excited they’re going to compete at Disney World.”  —D.B.


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