Panther cheerleading team wins national title in Florida

Lakeville North tops in Small Varsity Non-Tumbling Division

Photo submitted
Photo submitted

Few teams were cheering louder or better than Lakeville North at the National High School Cheerleading Championship last weekend at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

The 13-member team led by coach Raven Jones won the Small Varsity Non-Tumbling Division with 90.33 points, one point ahead of second-place Belle Chasse High School from Louisiana.

“It was their best performance of the year,” cheerleading advisor Susan Link said. “They haven’t had a full-hit performance since November. It was a really good time to peak. From beginning to end it was flawless. After watching 30 seconds (of a 2-minute, 30-second routine), I knew they were going to win.”

It was perhaps the best performance in school history.

“Progressively we’ve been doing better,” said Link, who has been involved with cheerleading in Lakeville for 13 years. “Sometimes the divisions are harder. Last year we got second at nationals. That inspired them a bit.”

Lakeville North’s season was a bit of a Cinderella story that ended at Disney World.

Things haven’t always gone as planned, but the North team wasn’t in Florida for a vacation.
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“People make the assumption that we’re just enjoying the parks, but we have a job to do,” Link said. “We practiced five to seven hours a day while we were there. They usually had to wait until Sunday night before they went on any rides.”

In a regional qualifier in November, the team failed to qualify for nationals. Determined to get back to Florida, the team traveled to Wisconsin for another qualifier in December to earn its spot.

“It was not easy to do,” Link said. “It’s been a tough road. You’re trying to appease a whole bunch of people in a subjective situation. We took the subjective out of it and walked in with a performance we knew would qualify.”

The team reworked its routine and spent extra time, which paid off with the trip to Florida.

But at the Minnesota Cheerleading Coaches Association state meet on Feb. 2 in St. Paul, the team slipped up, finishing fifth in its division.

“That was the reverse of nationals,” Link said.

At nationals, the team was seeded third of 10 finalists. After nailing its final routine, North jumped over the top two teams to win.

“It’s not like the other two did bad either,” Link said. “They really nailed their routines, too.”

It was a big year for Minnesota at the NHSCC, where southern states usually dominate. Bloomington Jefferson, Lakeville North and Minnetonka made Minnesota winners in three of the 15 divisions. Eastview finished in sixth place in the Small Varsity Non-Tumbling Division.

“It’s a southern-driven sport,” Link said. “They tend to walk away with the most trophies, but Minnesota put themselves on the map this year.”