Cheers! Fairfield PeeWee Giants go for national laurels
Ten pint-size dynamos are hoping to cheer, dance, twirl and jump into the record books by continuing their winning streak at the Pop Warner National Championship at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., with help from local supporters.
Members of the Fairfield Peewee Giants cheerleading squad are collecting donations that will cover travel and other expenses. They have set a goal of raising $35,000 with less than two weeks to do it. The national competition at Disney World starts on Dec. 2.
"My birthday is December 5, the same as Walt Disney's, and that's the day after the competition and we'll know the results by then," said Cassie Llewellyn, 10.
It is only the second time in Fairfield Pop Warner's 46-year history that the cheerleading squad has earned a trip to the national championship. The Giants Junior Midget squad "went in 2008 and they won," Pulito said.
The cheerleaders performed during halftime of the Thanksgiving Day football game between Fairfield Ludlowe and Warde High Schools Thursday, and ask the crowd for financial support.
They will also have a booth at Sherman Green on Saturday for the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce-sponsored festivities marking the arrival of Santa Claus for the season, where they will sell baked goods and request donations. The girls are also seeking corporate sponsorships and have set up a feature on their website that will allow people to donate through PayPal.
Nancy Pulito is a first-time cheerleading coach, whose lack of experience didn't seem to matter. The team's record is 4-0 this competition season.
"We've sat at every practice for the last two years," said Pulito, whose daughter Gianna Pulito, 9, joined the squad two years ago. "You learn the techniques and what's appropriate.
"We did a lot of manual book reading."
Pulito also had to familiarize herself with all the rules that govern cheerleading competition. The coach admitted that she cannot take all the credit herself. The squad gets help from two student coaches at Warde and from a choreographer who helped them create the routine.
Pulito said the girls are "beyond thrilled" at the thought of going to nationals. "The girls are out-of-control excited," she said.
"I'm out-of-my-mind excited," said Haley Sepot, 11.
According to the Fairfield Giants website, the cheer squad has made a complete first place sweep at all competition levels; Southern Connecticut Peewee Champs, State Champs and New England Champions.
"This was our first time really competing and we won every competition that we went to," said JoAnna Moomjian, 10, whose mother, Lory, is an assistant coach. They also won a regional competition between the state and New England championships.
Their accomplishments are all the more remarkable considering they have only been practicing together since last August.
Teddie Tarczali, 11, said she relied on two-year veteran Michaela Murdock, also 11, to keep her calm through the competition experience. "She helped me feel less nervous," Teddie said.
"I love that I get to practice with my friends and I like to cheer for the football players and it's really fun competing," said Hannah Landesberg, 11, one of three new squad members.
The girls are not resting on their laurels. They've been hard at work perfecting their competition routine, which includes a one-minute cheer and then a dance to pre-recorded music that can run no more than one minute and 30 seconds.
Their music consists of a mix of 1980s-era classics, including Van Halen's "Jump." Pulito said they will perform the same routine they have done all season long but they are working to polish the movements, elevate the skill difficulty level, improve the timing and make the routine more exciting.
To watch their video go to: http://bit.ly/TNRvkL
And to make a tax-deductible online go to: http://bit.ly/RQHTrR