Park City Cheer Stunts Their Way to Nationals

Park City Cheer Stunts Their Way to Nationals

Grace Plavocos

On a bright and early Thursday morning at 6 am, 17 girls from Park City High School’s competition cheerleading team traveled to LAX to compete on the national stage in Anaheim California. 


The entire team is made up of 30 girls, also known as the game day team. They attend and cheer at sports events, while the competition team is made up of 17 girls who tryout and earn their spot on the traveling competitive team. 


The team head coach, Ashley Baer, goes into detail about the tryout and selection process; “Some of them aren’t really in love with the competition aspect of cheer so we don’t force everyone into competing and we don’t… last year everyone competed and I just found that if you give those girls who are really passionate about competing, you are gonna do better.” 


In order to attend nationals, the team must qualify at a USA qualifier competition. In the state of Utah, 2 of these competitions are offered and they must hit 75 or higher out of 100 points to qualify. 


Park City’s team did that in both qualifiers this year, sending them off to Anaheim. After landing in California, the team made their way to the event center to register and checkout the performance areas.


 From there, they went to Disneyland Resort, as each girl was given a 3-day Park Hopper pass. First thing early in the morning the next day, the stunt team performed.


The team has one minute to perform their routine of strictly stunting form start to finish, competing against 43 other teams. 


The team consists of Akacia Christofferson, Sophia Wakefield, and Ella Engel (Sohpmores) Ellie Mithcell, (Junior) and Annie Sunderland (Senior).

Baer explains the judging process; “In order to do very well in a stunt, nothing can fall, everything has to hit, the stars have to perfectly align, and that, unfortunately, didn’t happen for us.”


Since one skill didn’t connect, it messed up the eight count for the other skills and had a sort of ‘domino’ effect.                                       Overall, the stunt team ended up taking 20th out of the 43 teams. 


Following the stunt team’s performance that morning, the girls went back to the hotel to get ready for the show cheer division; that’s when all 17 girls would take the mat. 

“You only get your 12 minutes,” Baer explained. “And it’s literally… you’re all standing there waiting with your signs and stuff and as soon as that last member of the previous team steps off the mat, you run on the mat.”


With a quick and stressful turnover, another big difficulty that the team faced is the experience of the girls. 


Cheer isn’t a recreation sport in Utah, therefore there are no clubs for younger girls to join and learn. Therefore, this is many of the girl’s first-year cheering since the tryouts in March, giving them less than a year to get ready for the national stage. Comparing to other teams who have years of experience. 


The team was placed in the medium division; 17-20 girls and the top five teams from that division competed in the finals on day 2 for the chance to become the national champion. Overall, Park City got 9th place.


“We took the mat, our cheer hit beautifully ou stunt hit beautifully, but then our elite stunts, which is a separate group fro the four other stunts; one of them fell, another one hit most of the elite skills but came down on the one,” Baer said.


 There they hit 2/4 and lost points for techniques and deductions. In total, 2.5 points were taken off from that small section.


“The difference between 9th place and 5th place was less than 5 points. So when you lose 2.5 of those already, it’s a big loss. If we didn’t make those errors we would have made the top 5 and went to finals,” Baer said. “Cheer isn’t like football. You don’t get 4 downs to try again. You get 2.5 minutes if it doesn’t hit, then you’re done and that’s it.” 


Comparing the team’s performance to last year, they outscored 7 points higher, especially considering they were the smallest team in their division with 17 girls, hitting 4 stunts instead of the typical 5 that the group of 20 are able to hit.


Baer is proud of the team nonetheless. “We did very well aside from those two errors,” she said, “compared to where we were last year and where we are this year and how we placed, it’s taken the girls a lot of work to get to that point and I’m very proud of them.”