By: Erica Condon
The Sacred Heart cheerleading team placed first at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) College National Championships on Jan. 18, winning their first National Championship title.
The team traveled to Orlando to compete at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in the All Girl Division I category.
The team began their season in Aug. 2019 when they attended UCA College Spirit Camp at the University of Scranton.
Senior captain Jessie Esposito said out of all her four years on the team, this year she had felt the most confident going into the competition.
“Coming into the competition I definitely expected our team to perform really well. The most important goal we tried to focus on was to give everything our best shot and come off of the mat with no regrets,” said Esposito.
Throughout their season of preparation the team also cheers on the Pioneers at home football and basketball games, as well as attending local competitions and community service events.
“Our season starts Aug. 1 with practices five days a week and lift twice a week. The month leading up to nationals we practiced twice a day. We had also performed our routine numerous times in front of large crowds. They were very prepared this season and feeling confident about their routine, that was my main priority,” said head coach Christina Sereno.
Sereno devotes herself to the team not only as a head coach but as a Sacred Heart alumna and a former member of the team.
“I couldn’t be more honored to coach such an amazing group of athletes. They have overcome so many obstacles and never let anything stop them. The presented each obstacle with positivity and determination,” said Sereno. “I wish all coaches had the chance to work with these athletes. They never cease to amaze me.”
The Pioneers kicked off their competition weekend by performing their routine in semi-finals which then qualified them to advance to finals. Out of 16 teams in the extremely competitive division, only 8 teams advanced to the final round.
Senior captain Jayce Jones said that her main goal was to go out and hit a routine with no regrets.
“Once we accomplished hitting our best routine, that’s all that mattered to me because at that point it was up to the judges,” said Jones.
The team went on to perform their routine one last time in the final round. Their goal was to hit their routine to the best of their ability and that is exactly what they did.
“The feeling you get walking off of the mat knowing your team gave it their all is indescribable because win or lose, that feeling is the most rewarding part of cheerleading,” said Esposito.
To conclude the competition, the team eagerly huddled together awaiting to hear what place they had received at the awards ceremony.
“When we were announced as national champions I knew that we had made history and I couldn’t have been more proud, it’s a feeling I will never forget,” said Esposito.
The team brought back their national title to campus on Monday Jan. 20 with a warm welcome from friends, family, and faculty at the William H. Pitt Center.
“Coming off of that bus with the trophy after being escorted by police on the way home from the airport was when I finally realized, I am a national champion,” said Esposito.
The local news stations WTNH News 8 and News 12 Connecticut were also on campus awaiting the arrival of the National Champions.
“The support from the news was so unexpected. I am so glad that we were able to share our story with the community and I hope that it can inspire people to never stop working hard for what they want, to always stay humble, and make every moment count,” said Esposito.