Father Judge has plenty to cheer about

β€œIt was a great feel­ing. We fi­nally ac­com­plished our goal. Com­pet­ing on a na­tion­al level is nerve-wrack­ing, but a lot of fun. We re­ceived a lot of en­cour­age­ment from our fans and the ju­ni­or varsity team.” β€” Cheer­lead­er Megan Mc­Gin­ley, a ju­ni­or at St. Hubert High School.


Named Best of Philly in 2009 by Phil­adelphia magazine, the Fath­er Judge Cheer­lead­ing Team now ranks as best in the na­tion. 

The squad just re­turned from Or­lando, Fla., where they fin­ished in first place at the Na­tion­al High School Cheer­lead­ing Cham­pi­on­ship.

The com­pet­i­tion is re­garded as the most pres­ti­gi­ous cheer­lead­ing cham­pi­on­ship in the coun­try. The NHSCC, held at the Walt Dis­ney World Re­sort, is na­tion­ally tele­vised on ES­PN and ES­PN2 to more than 100 mil­lion homes and 32 coun­tries each year.

ldquo;After scor­ing well in the pre­lim­in­ary round, we were able to by­pass the semi­finals and head straight to the fi­nal round,” ex­plained head coach Lisa McNesby, who is as­sisted by her broth­er Paul Bal­lentine, Siobhan Latta, and former Judge cheer­lead­ers Kelly Ma­cart­ney, Ter­rie Casper and Kristen Bieringer.

Fath­er Judge com­peted against 34 teams in its di­vi­sion. The run­ner-up was Centen­ni­al High School of Frank­lin, Tenn.

“After los­ing el­ev­en tal­en­ted seni­ors, we thought this was go­ing to be a re­build­ing year,” McNesby ex­plained. ldquo;We have a lot of girls that have nev­er com­peted at na­tion­als be­fore.” 

Fath­er Judge par­ti­cip­ated in the “Large Varsity” di­vi­sion, which means they com­pete with 20 girls on their squad. To qual­i­fy for na­tion­als, a team must score well at a re­gion­al com­pet­i­tion.  There are 40 re­gion­al com­pet­i­tions across the coun­try.

“We struggled at some loc­al com­pet­i­tions, but by the end of Janu­ary, things star­ted to really come to­geth­er,” said McNesby.  “Our girls worked hard and the coaches made the right stra­tegic de­cisions re­gard­ing the skills con­tained in the routine.” 

Dur­ing the com­pet­i­tion, the squad per­forms a two-and-a-half-minute routine packed with stunts, pyr­am­ids, elite tum­bling skills, cheers and dance. 

“It takes a tre­mend­ous amount of en­dur­ance to per­form a routine of this caliber,” ex­plained their head coach. ldquo;We thought we had done well, but we were not ex­pect­ing first place. It was so shock­ing and ex­cit­ing!”  

“It was a great feel­ing,” said cheer­lead­er Megan Mc­Gin­ley, a ju­ni­or at St. Hubert High School. “We fi­nally ac­com­plished our goal.  Com­pet­ing on a na­tion­al level is nerve-wrack­ing, but a lot of fun. We re­ceived a lot of en­cour­age­ment from our fans and the ju­ni­or varsity team.”

The girls re­ceived gold medals and the coveted white “Na­tion­al Cham­pi­on” jack­ets. The cheer­lead­ers, fam­ily and friends cel­eb­rated the vic­tory by hug­ging, cry­ing and tak­ing pic­tures. 

“When we got back to the hotel, every­body jumped in­to the pool to cel­eb­rate,” McNesby said, laugh­ing. ldquo;The girls sang the Fath­er Judge fight song, St. Hubert alma ma­ter, and re­cited the ‘Don’t Quit’ poem.” 

Win­ning a na­tion­al cham­pi­on­ship does not come easy. For their two-and-a-half-minute per­form­ance, the team must prac­tice count­less hours year-round.

“We prac­tice four nights a week to pre­pare for com­pet­i­tion, and we start work­ing on this routine in the sum­mer,” ex­plained McNesby.

Their com­pet­i­tion sea­son runs from Novem­ber to early March.  In ad­di­tion, the team cheers for every Fath­er Judge home foot­ball and bas­ket­ball game. 

“We usu­ally have a com­pet­i­tion on week­ends, and some­times we have a game and a com­pet­i­tion,” ex­plained Mc­Gin­ley. “As it gets closer to na­tion­als, we prac­tice even more. We all worked very hard to get to this point.”

ldquo;The cheer­lead­ing team is a great help to our school,” said Ed Evan­it­sky, Fath­er Judge’s ath­let­ic dir­ect­or. ldquo;Not only do they cheer at our games, but they also vo­lun­teer at our open houses and school tours.”

In ad­di­tion, the cheer­lead­ers vo­lun­teer with the March of Dimes, Susan G. Ko­men for the Cure, and the Red Cross.

ldquo;They are an out­stand­ing group of ath­letes,” said their head coach. “The girls spend a sig­ni­fic­ant amount of time to­geth­er and have de­veloped a deep re­spect for each oth­er, as well as long-last­ing friend­ships.”

This year, Fath­er Judge in­tro­duced a ju­ni­or varsity cheer­lead­ing squad.

“It was very suc­cess­ful,” ex­plained McNesby. “The JV team hit two out­stand­ing per­form­ances at na­tion­als and placed sev­enth. We were thrilled!”

In 2010, Fath­er Judge de­cided that its cheer­lead­ers must be stu­dents at St. Hubert for the team to com­pete as a PI­AA sport. Win­ning the na­tion­al cham­pi­on­ship was a mean­ing­ful ac­com­plish­ment for the squad, es­pe­cially be­cause their high school’s fu­ture is un­cer­tain.

St. Hubert is among five high schools that the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia an­nounced will close in June be­cause of fin­ances and low en­roll­ments. The school’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has ap­pealed the de­cision; word of the out­come is ex­pec­ted this week.

ldquo;If St. Hubert closes, we’re not sure of the fu­ture of our team,” said McNesby. ldquo;It will be a de­cision made by the arch­dioces­an ath­let­ic dir­ect­ors. We are pray­ing that St. Hubert wins the ap­peal.”

ldquo;This year has been hard and very up­set­ting,” ex­plained Mc­Gin­ley. ldquo;We are hop­ing for the best. Hope­fully, with this one-week delay, they change their minds and de­cide to keep us open.”

Fath­er Judge will com­pete one last time this sea­son, at the All-Cath­ol­ic cheer­lead­ing com­pet­i­tion on March 11. ull;•

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