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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2020:04:18 06:03:26

Above, Pittston Area cheerleader Hallee Minutes gets a lift from her squad during a recent practice for the national cheerleading competition in Orlando, Florida. At bottom left, cheerleader Isabella Wesolowski does a flip, and at top left, Samantha Wynder leads a chant. DAVE SCHERBENCO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2020:04:18 06:08:52

Pittston Area Cheerleader Isabella Wesolowski (Please Spellcheck name) goes into a flip during Monday Nights practice.cv25cheerDAVE SCHERBENCO/CITIZENS VOICE

With the support of the Pittston Area School District and the Greater Pittston Area community, 19 members of the varsity cheerleading squad are set to put their best foot forward next week at the Universal Cheerleading Association’s National High School Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Fla.

Billed as the most prestigious cheerleading championship in the country, the Patriot cheerleaders qualified for the national championship by placing fifth in the medium varsity-Division II of the 2019 UCA Pocono Regional competition in November.

“The athletes work hard practicing four to five days a week in addition to cheering for football, girls and boys basketball and wrestling,” said Coach Kim Endres about the team’s commitment to their sport. “We have a supportive student body, administration and athletic department that helps us put our best foot forward.”

Endres, who coaches the squad along with fellow Pittston Area educator Alyssa McKernan, said the team will compete in the Division II large varsity game day category at the championship taking place Friday, Feb. 7, at Walt Disney World Resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The Patriots are the silver medalists of PIAA District II and are currently ranked 20th in Pennsylvania in the traditional routine category. The team also has placed second and third in other competitions where they performed their game day routine. Building on their confidence from those successes, the Patriots recently turned their full focus to perfecting their game day program, hoping their performance places them in the finals at the national competition.

“This category differs from their traditional routine,” Endres explained as she described the team’s national competition program. “It is set up to mock an actual football game day situation where the cheerleaders perform dances, cheers and skills to lead the crowd.”

Maximizing their moment to shine in the competition, the Patriots will perform an approximately three-minute-long routine that will incorporate a band chant, a sideline cheer for defense or offense, a crowd leading section and a fight song.

While a trip to the Sunshine State in the winter is a welcome change of pace for anyone, the team’s trip is not free. To offset associated competition costs, the cheerleaders have been holding fundraisers since September.

“They have been selling many items such as pizza, donuts, candy, discount cards and clothing,” Endres said. “They have held coin drops and are currently accepting sponsors from businesses and family and friends.”

The Pittston Area cheerleading community is very grateful and thanks everyone who has donated or supported their efforts. The still are accepting donations from the public to help fund their Florida trip. Anyone who wants to donate may mail it to Pittston Area High School, Attention Kim Endres, 5 Stout St., Yatesville, PA 18640. Checks can be made payable to Pittston Area Cheer.

The public can follow the team’s progress in the competition on social media via their Instagram account, Pittston Area Cheer (pittstonarea_cheer.) The competition also will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and ESPNU to over 100 million homes and 32 countries.

jborthwick@pittstonprogress.com