By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
MILTON — The 15-member Milton Area High cheerleading squad is looking to raise $7,000 to meet the $18,000 cost of competing for no longer than five minutes at a national tournament in Orlando, Fla.
But first, the two-time District 4 champions will battle 47 teams next weekend at the state tournament in Hershey, where Milton finished eighth in 2013. Milton followed a District 4 large-varsity title in 2013 by winning the small-varsity crown Jan. 11.
“They’re a little nervous,” coach Traci Ferguson said of the girls participating in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association event. Competitive cheerleading is in its second year of being sanctioned by the PIAA.
The squad will then vie for the crown Feb. 6-7 at the National High School Cheerleading Championships, where it finished fourth in 2013. If Milton’s 2½-minute routine scores enough points in Saturday’s round, the team will compete for another 2½ minutes on Sunday in the finals.
Valley donations, sponsorships and the girls’ fundraisers have netted $11,000 toward the cost of the competition and lodging, Ferguson said. But $7,000 is needed for transportation.
The squad, composed of freshmen through seniors, is hosting a spaghetti dinner at Baugher Elementary School from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today and is conducting a sandwich sale, as well holding in-school initiatives, Ferguson said.
Ten girls will be making their second appearance at nationals, hosted last year by the Universal Cheer Association. Milton qualified for the event at a Dec. 8 tournament in Kutztown. Thirty teams will compete in 2014.
“The atmosphere was just awesome,” Ferguson said of the nationals. “It was phenomenal. It made you feel proud to be a cheerleader.”
In 2014, the girls are out to prove they are among the best in America and are feeling a little more comfortable about the national event, Ferguson said.
“Last year we went in with no idea what to expect,” she said. “Just with the warming up and waiting and how you went out on the floor.”
This year, the girls are anxious to return to the competition, where they will be competing in a new category, called “Game Time,” where they will present a routine consisting of a sideline cheer, a band dance and a crowd-lead cheer, Ferguson said. The squad is also presenting its competition routine in the non-tumbling category, which differs slightly from its PIAA routine, which includes tumbling.
“Right now at practice, we have three routines,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the squad is thankful to all of its sponsors who have made it possible for the team to continue to compete.
“We’ve had some of our sponsors that have stepped back up again and we are really, really appreciative of that and we’re hoping our other sponsors help us out in any way that they can,” she said.