Editor’s Note: Over the weekend, the Red cheer team placed 13th in their division of nationals, and Silver placed 16th in their division.
The Mount Si High School cheerleaders reached a milestone even the Seattle Seahawks couldn’t this season: A trip to Disney World.
After an undefeated cheer season and a second state championship, the varsity Red and Silver cheer squads traveled to Disney World on Thursday, Feb. 5, for the national high school cheerleading championship. The Red team competed against 50 teams nationwide, while the Silver took on 29.
Head coach Jessii Stevens is a Mount Si alumna and has spent seven seasons with the team. In an e-mail during the height of the competition, she detailed the teams’ goals.
“Both teams are really excited to be at nationals and represent Mount Si,” Stevens wrote. “For Silver, our goal is to make finals and for Red, our goal is to make top three in the nation. Competing at the nationals level is incredibly different than competing in Washington; the teams are phenomenal in Florida!
“I think seeing teams with such incredible technique will be eye-opening to the girls and make them want to push themselves that much harder next season.”
Allie Banducci, 14, and Vanessa Vance, 15, are both freshmen, Silver squad cheerleaders. This will be their first time at nationals and visiting Disney World. At their February 3 send-off practice, both girls admitted they were nervous.
“I’m nervous because there’s going to be a lot more people than we usually perform in front of…” Banducci began.
“And it’s like whole new routines, so we have to keep practicing,” Vance interjected.
Despite the glitzy distractions of Disney World, the girls said they’re more excited about the competition than visiting the park.
“I’m most excited to just go as a team and get to spend so much time together,” Banducci said.
Banducci is also excited for the opportunity to act as a role model for the mini-cheer camp her team hosts: “(the little girls will) get to see us perform across the country and that’s pretty cool.”
Though she isn’t able to travel the 2,500 miles with her daughter, Kim Banducci, Allie’s mom, loyally attended her send-off practice and weighed in on the upcoming competition.
“It’s a great opportunity just to experience being a team and being together,” she said. “And a great opportunity to go perform – there’s going to be … 10,000 cheerleaders in Orlando.”
There to send off Hailey Weed, a junior who’s traveling to nationals for the first time, was her dad Bill.
“I think for Hailey in particular,” Weed mused, “it’s built a lot of confidence and it’s been a good experience for team building, learning, and leadership. Having a potentially undefeated season has been pretty amazing.”
Since the team was leaving on the heels of a brutal Seahawks defeat, would this competition raise locals spirits?
Weed lets out a hearty laugh.
“I think to this close-knit group, it could come close,” he said. “(It’s) two totally different things, but it’ll definitely boost some spirits.”
Regardless of the results, spirits were high and everyone seemed to have their eyes on the prize, rather than the parks. In her e-mail, Stevens reiterated that the girls are at Disney World to compete and checking out the attractions is just an added bonus.
“We will have some time at the Disney parks,” she wrote, “but hopefully we compete in preliminaries, semis and final. Our goal is to go and compete… not go and play!”
Mount Si High School Red squad varsity cheerleaders perform during their nationals “send off” Tuesday, Feb. 3.
Coach Jessii Stevens shows off the teams’ Disney-themed shirts.