By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
MILTON — The Milton Area High School competitive cheerleading squad needs to raise $8,700 by Feb. 8 to travel to a national championship event in Florida for which it qualified.
The 21-member squad qualified for the Universal Cheerleaders Association national competition, to be held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, after winning a regional competition in Kutztown in December, coach Traci Ferguson said.
About $13,000 of the $22,000 cost has been banked, and the squad continues to raise funds for the Feb. 8 competition, Ferguson said.
The competition is the manifestation of a goal that started about four years ago, Ferguson said. The squad has 11 seniors, many of which have been hoping for a national bid since the beginning of their cheerleading careers, Ferguson said.
“We’ve been competing since about 2008,” she said. “This is really the culmination of that.”
About 20 other squads have qualified for the competition, including one from Pittston, Ferguson said.
Practice for the squad begins in the summer, with strength training and conditioning, Ferguson said. The girls also attend a cheerleading camp to help jump-start working on their routines for the season.
The squad won numerous titles this season, including the inaugural PIAA District 4 event, a competition created after the PIAA recognized cheerleading as a sport for the first time, Ferguson said.
Later this month, the squad will be competing for the state title.
While a bid to the national competition has been in the squad’s sights for a long time, the realization that it is going to nationals didn’t sink in until members received their bid, Ferguson said.
“It wasn’t real before,” she said. “But now, we have a motivated group of parents ... and we’ve gotten an awesome response from the community.
In total, the squad needed about $22,000 for the trip, Ferguson said.
“The trip to Disney is paid for,” Ferguson said. “We just need the money for the bus, which was $8,700.”
To make up the rest of the money, the squad is hosting a spaghetti dinner and asking for donations at Valley businesses and at high school athletic events, Ferguson said.
“We’re very confident” the money can be raised, Ferguson said.
However, the trip won’t be all work and no play for the hard-working squad. The trip will include some time for some fun, Ferguson said.
“The (Disney) parks are included in the trip,” she said.
For the squad’s seniors, the reality that they’re facing the final competitions of their high school cheerleading careers is sinking in, Ferguson said.
“One of the girls recently said, ’I have a month left,’” Ferguson said.