Lacey Township went to Orlando, Fla. last week as a small town co-ed cheerleading team and left with complete strangers chanting their cheer.
The team placed second in the country in their division at the National High School Cheerleading Championship.
“It was perfection,” Coach Kelly Zuccarelli said. “It was unbelievable.”
Thirteen teams made it to the finals, Zuccarelli said. Reidland High School in Kentucky placed first.
“I felt physically ill watching the other teams,” Zuccarelli said. They were all “perfection,” she said."It's remarkable what these kids do."
Lacey brought their best as they were half a point away from a perfect score, she said. The squad had the highest score in cheer.
“[Lacey] brought the house down,” she said.
Senior captains Brianna Bacchetta, Jessica Innamorato and Allison Orlasky had their concerns, as the team is young with five seniors, two juniors, eight sophomores and five freshmen.
Bacchetta wondered whether the squad would crack under pressure or pull it together, she said.
“Being on that mat is unlike any other,” Orlasky added. “It’s very nerve wracking.”
The team went into the competition nervous, Innamorato said. But after their first routine, they loosened up.
“We were all just ready,” she said. “I knew we were going to hit a perfect routine. We peaked at the perfect time. I'm so proud of my team.”
All of the teams the squad competed against were from the south—Kentucky, Louisiana, Alabama—teams who practice year-round. Lacey only began practices just after Thanksgiving.
“Next year we’ll win the national title because of [the captain’s] leadership,” Zuccharelli said.
The team arrived home exhausted after their flight for Monday was canceled, Zuccharelli said. They were told by the airlines that they could not catch another flight until Friday.
"It was torture," Zuccahrelli said. "What's so special about these kids is that they handled it with class and maturity."
A group of parents were at Lacey Township High School waiting for the team to arrive home on Tuesday. They displayed signs, held balloons and flowers, rang bells, and cheered. Many of the parents were in Florida for the competition as well.
“We are so proud of them,” Patti Bocchini said. “They couldn’t have done any better than they did.”
Even as parents, so many emotions surfaced from nerves to excitement, Bocchini said. Lacey had the loudest crowd, she added.
“It’s watching their dreams come true in a place where dreams come true,” Andrea Higgins said.
Superintendent Dr. Sandra Brower received a text on Saturday night announcing the team’s success.
“I was just so thrilled for them,” she said. “I saw them practicing. This is everything they ever wished for.”
College coaches approached some of the athletes and the team will be featured on ESPN in the future.
“There’s no better ambassador for Lacey Township High School than our nationally ranked co-ed cheerleaders to showcase our talents and what we’re really all about,” Principal William Zylinski said.
To view a video of the squad's routine, click here and search "Lacey Township High School."