By JORDAN MILLER
ORLANDO – It was a trip to remember and for some, a once in a life time trip for Minerva.
For the first time in program history, the Minerva cheer team competed in the National High School Cheerleading Championship (UCA).
A weekend of fun at Disney was capped with two performances at the national event and a fifth-place finish.
“Being able to take my team to the National High School Cheerleading Championship was such an honor,” said Minerva cheer head coach Athena Butcher. “Most of my life I have watched and followed this championship competition. This National competition is the biggest national championship in the country. Other companies also host a national, but this is the one!”
The Lions had one shot to qualify for finals, but you could feel the disappointment amongst the cheerleaders and coaches.
Their first performance had some imperfections and they didn’t think they had a shot of advancing to finals.
“I felt so disappointed after our first performance. Not disappointed in my kids, but disappointed for them,” Coach Butcher said. “I knew they were so much better than what they had just shown. I was sick because I truly believed we would not make it to finals. My kids are the hardest working, most coachable, and kindest group of girls I have ever had the privilege to coach. I just knew they deserved to be in that final, yet I was so afraid we weren’t going to make it.”
As the team and coaches sat in the stands and the host announced what eight teams would be moving on to the finals, the tears started to flow.
“I honestly don’t remember my reaction… I remember seeing white and almost passing out. I was so relieved, yet so excited my kids would get another chance to show the nation who we really were,” Butcher said. “My girls were in tears because they knew they were better than their semi-final performance. Once we made it to the NHSCC, our goal was to make it to finals. To accomplish this goal, it meant everything. It truly made our season.”
The Minerva cheer team performed like a different team in their final performance. Sticking their landings and hitting everything, at this point, every point counted.
“My kids were so relaxed and so confident going into finals. They treated it as a second chance by completely forgetting about the first performance,” Butcher said. “I truly couldn’t be prouder of how they turned it around. Every single tumbling skill stuck like glue, which meant we have zero deductions. Every single kid was smiling when they stepped off the mat, which is something I preach to my kids.”
Coach Butcher says her team laid it all on the mat in the final performance. “I want them to be proud of themselves when they finish and I
want them to be happy knowing they gave 110% effort for themselves and for their team. I know when they finished I was jumping up and down like a crazy lady. That feeling is something I will never forget,” she said.
After their finals performance, now it was time to wait for the results.
The host of the event started to read off the placers, starting at eighth place.
Once Minerva realized they didn’t finish eighth, they were relieved. Then the finishers for seventh and sixth were read off, that’s when smiles grew on the girls’ faces. They knew they were finishing within the top five at this point.
The host read, “And in fifth place, Minerva High School.” The girls, fans and coaches all screamed and jumped for joy.
“Minerva cheerleading is officially on the map! It means so much to all of the alumni who came before these kids, it means so much to all of the past coaches, it means so much to our community,” Butcher said. “It means so much to them because we wouldn’t be who we are and where we are without them. To me, it means that we did it. I know it’s not first place, or even second, but to me 5th place in the entire nation is my biggest accomplishment as a head coach.”
The Lions were .2 points away from placing fourth and .7 points away from finishing as third in the nation.