Carmel Valley's Torrey Pines Pop Warner cheer squad wins national championship

Torrey Pines Pop Warner championship cheer squad:  Back row: (left-right) Coach Andrea Loewen-Rodriguez, Alyssa Rodriguez, Blair Borneman, Julia Pascoe, Olivia Scott, Coach Alicia Smith, Alexis Filippone; Middle row: (left - right)  Adi Azoulai, Sarah Kirby, Kellie Hayes, Ellison Starnes, Aliya Bolt, McKenna Smith, Kaitlin Mohler, Viviana Gil; Front row:  (left - right)  Palomar Cheer Director Amy Leon, Olivia Krzyston, Annalise Castro, Jenna Agbulos, Mari Hoffman, Olivia Fuller, Stephanie Silva.
Torrey Pines Pop Warner championship cheer squad: Back row: (left-right) Coach Andrea Loewen-Rodriguez, Alyssa Rodriguez, Blair Borneman, Julia Pascoe, Olivia Scott, Coach Alicia Smith, Alexis Filippone; Middle row: (left - right) Adi Azoulai, Sarah Kirby, Kellie Hayes, Ellison Starnes, Aliya Bolt, McKenna Smith, Kaitlin Mohler, Viviana Gil; Front row: (left - right) Palomar Cheer Director Amy Leon, Olivia Krzyston, Annalise Castro, Jenna Agbulos, Mari Hoffman, Olivia Fuller, Stephanie Silva.

The Torrey Pines Pop Warner (TPPW) Jr. Midget Falcons cheer squad made history last week, placing first and capturing the National Championship title at the Pop Warner Super Bowl National Cheer & Dance Competition held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. This is the first National Championship win ever for Torrey Pines Pop Warner and just the second National Championship in Pop Warner history for the WESCON Region, which includes Southern California, Southern Nevada, Utah, Hawaii and Arizona.

The TPPW Jr. Midget Falcon cheer squad, led by head coaches Alicia Smith (former Charger cheerleader) and Andrea Loewen-Rodriquez, won first place in the Intermediate Medium Cheer Division and were among the 400 Pop Warner Cheer Squads representing the best of the nation’s 180,000 Pop Warner cheer and dance participants.

For a cheerleading squad, the difficult road to the Pop Warner National Championship includes placing first or second at the local and regional competitions. The TPPW Jr. Midget Falcons won first place at the local Palomar Conference in October at SDSU and then went on to another first place win at the Regionals in Long Beach at the end of November. A week later they flew to Florida to compete against the best of the best and cheered their way to become the National Champions.

They were judged on their competition routine, which included a combination of cheering, advanced tumbling (back tucks and multiple back handsprings), stunting (pyramids, basket tosses, and scorpions), motion techniques and jumps, as well as their dance portion and overall appeal. The Intermediate division is a more advanced and difficult division and they competed against phenomenal teams from all over the nation.

“I am beside myself with joy for these girls,” said Head Coach Alicia Smith (who was recently crowned 2011 Palomar “Coach of the Year” for Jr. Midget).

“This has been an amazing year for our team. We’ve worked so hard to get to Florida and now we’re the National Champions. It has been such a group effort by our entire team and coaching staff and I know we will all cherish these memories forever.”

It takes many hours of practice to be a competitive cheer squad. The team started practicing in early August with four days a week cheering and conditioning, and cheered at games for the TPPW Jr. Midget Falcon Football team up until November. They went down to two hour practices three days a week once school started. In addition, many of the girls on the team put in more hours by taking private tumbling classes. One of the highlights of their routine included advanced tumbling with 16 back tucks (the most done in their Intermediate division at Nationals). The Jr. Midget team is comprised of 11- 13 year old girls in the 6th - 8th grades in Carmel Valley, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe and Solana Beach.

The team not only worked hard at cheerleading, but spent many hours fundraising to raise money for their team and their travel to competitions. They recently designed a t-shirt and got sponsors from local businesses to contribute. The sponsors names are on the back of their t-shirts with their team motto “One Team, One Dream.”

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