“It all began when I started doing individual routines,” Richard said. “I worked on my routine all during the summer and began performing it in November. I went through it constantly.”
Richard, the daughter of Russell and Michelle Richard, of Lewistown, said she used the judges’ comments from various competitions to refine her routine until she found the winning combination for this spring’s event, when she competed against six other girls in her division. She also was one of the top five highest-scoring individuals among 81 other competitors, coming in at number three. In addition to receiving a trophy, she also was awarded a national championship jacket.
Her coach with the Wildcats, Skip Headings, offered her plenty of encouragement before the event, Richard said.
“He tried to prepare me by giving me a lot of advice,” she said. “He told me not to be afraid.”
Richard, 16, will be a senior at Indian Valley High School this fall and plans to continue her cheerleading career in college, hopefully at the University of Maryland. She offered the following advice to up and coming cheerleaders:
“At practice, push yourself as hard as you can,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t give up.”
Taylor wasn’t the only winner at the national competition. Both of the senior squads from Wildcat Allstar Cheerleading also won and went on to world championships in Virginia Beach. Each member of those squads received trophies and national championship jackets as well.
“We’re an all-star cheerleading squad for K-12,” Headings said of his organization. “We have six teams at different levels in the program.”
Headings began the Wildcat program during the summer of 2000, when he was teaching cheerleading and tumbling at the YMCA in Burnham. The group moved to Perry-Juniata Gymnastics in Mifflintown, and eventually to the Port Royal Community Building. The team now has a second location in Pleasant Gap, and the organization continues to grow.
“The purpose of our program is to give all young athletes a chance to excel in the sport of competitive cheerleading, reaching for the highest level,” Headings said. “We ... strive to be competitive while trying hard to place all interested athletes on a squad, keeping in mind that each individual has their own skill level. We place each participant on a team suitable for their skill level and needs.”
While winning championships on any level is always a great way to recognize individual and team efforts, Headings stressed that cheerleading was more than competing for trophies and jackets.
“The ultimate goal, both individually and through teamwork, is to gain physical fitness, build self-worth and self-confidence as well as trust in each other, instill good sportsmanship in participants and, more importantly, to have fun while mastering the skill of cheerleading,” Headings said. “All-star cheerleading requires a great deal of commitment.”
For more information about the cheerleading squad, visit the Wildcat Web site at www.wildcatallstarscheer.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor Richard, of Lewistown, recently took first place at a national cheerleading competition.