HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – The Northern Arizona cheer team placed first in the 2013 United Cheer Association West Coast Championships hosted at the Gibson Amphitheatre on Universal City walk near Universal Studios, Calif. This was the Lumberjacks first appearance at the West Coast Championships after competing previously in the East Coast Championships.
"This was our first competition of the year and we did really well," said cheer coach Travis Doerfler. "Every member of our team stepped up and performed with excellence and for that, we came home champion of the competition."
The Lumberjacks travelled to Hollywood with a goal to be perfect.
"We did an incredible job in our stunts," said freshman Brooklyn Munton. "Our last couple of practices helped our confidence and everything began coming together for us."
That confidence came as no surprise as the Lumberjacks have prepared for months to compete before the judges and a crowd unfamiliar to them.
"As a junior, this is the most confident I have ever felt as an NAU cheerleader," said Kendal Flegenheimer. "Last year's competition was in December so having a few more months to compare gave us more time to come together as a team."
NAU looked flawless to the crowd but experienced struggles prior to the start of the competition as team captain and senior cheerleader Bree Guerra went down with a sprained ankle during the Lumberjack's warm-up routine.
"Bree landed short on her tumbling mat and messed up her ankle," said Doerfler. "But when we went onto the competition mat she gave everything she had and it was as if no one knew what she was going through. I can honestly say that any one person could not do what Bree did for her team."
To Bree though, this day was too important to not compete.
"I didn't know what to do at that point," said Guerra. "I knew that this weekend meant a lot for all of us and being our first time competing I couldn't jeopardize the team when deep down I knew I was capable of competing."
For Bree and the rest of the cheer team, motivation, excitement, and effort were magnified by the support of the crowd.
"The crowd was unbelievable throughout the entire routine," said Doerfler. "When we took the mat the entire place erupted for us. It was definitely a great feeling and a proud moment as a coach to see all of the hard work come together in just a couple of minutes."
The Lumberjacks now return to the practice mats in preparation for Nationals in just a couple of weeks. The cheer team will hold an exhibition this weekend in Phoenix, Ariz., where they will begin fine-tuning their talents.
"This week we will review our score cards from this past weekend and work to perfect every little detail," said sophomore Amber Roberts. "We want to learn from our successes and mistakes to be even better for Nationals."
This marks the third top-10 placement in competition for the cheer and dance program, but the team has plans for one more trophy. The Lumberjack cheer team will compete in their final competition of the year when they represent NAU at the 2013 United Cheer Association National Championships on March 16-17 in Anaheim, Calif.