The Bloomington Jefferson High School Cheer Team won the super varsity division at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship recently in Orlando, one of three area cheerleading teams to win national titles.
Minnetonka High School repeated its national title in the Medium Varsity Non-Tumbling Division after becoming the first Minnesota team to return home with the tournament's Satin Jackets in 2012. Lakeville North won the National Small Varsity Non-Tumbling division.
Minnetonka coach Andre Brewer said his team battled back from illness and won despite having nine new members out of 20 and trying to do a routine that was even more difficult than last year. There were 30 teams in Minnetonka's division, and the school beat the same Florida school for the title that it did last year.
"We really challenged the girls from last year to step up their routine," Brewer said. "It's just a great win for the school, the community and the program."
The Jefferson team placed ninth last year, so winning the title was "a huge jump," coach Kelly Gerleve said.
They started practicing for the nationals in May and went the entire season undefeated. At the state competition a week before finals, they placed second.
"Our biggest focus this year was that we wanted to be the best we could be," Gerleve said. "In cheerleading, you can't control what the other team has. You just have to worry about yourself."
Out of the 34 girls on the team, 11 are seniors. "I've had the girls for a long time, so it was great to see that group of girls to finish that way," Gerleve said.
"We tried to really stay focused and motivated all year," said Jefferson senior Genna Vacanti. "At every competition we made it our goal to hit our routine full out so we felt prepared and had no doubts when we went down to Orlando."
There are 19 teams in Jefferson's division, and the judges picked the top 10 teams to move on. The team got word at 11 p.m. the night before the finals and got up at 6 a.m. to compete.
"We kind of pictured in our heads what it would be like to win, but then actually feeling it was indescribable," Vacanti said.
Candice Wheeler is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment with the Star Tribune.