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Dedication, positivity keys to success for TJ competitive spirit cheerleading squad

Ray Fisher
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The Thomas Jefferson spirit team competed at the national championships Feb. 2, 2019, in Orlando.
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The Thomas Jefferson spirit team competed at the WPIAL and PIAA championships during the 2018-19 season.
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The Thomas Jefferson spirit team competed at the WPIAL and PIAA championships during the 2018-19 season.

Thomas Jefferson’s competitive spirit cheerleading squad experienced several “firsts” this season.

The girls recently returned from their first trip and first appearance in the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla.

The Jaguars competed in the large varsity division and super game day division at Walt Disney World, advanced to the finals for the first time, and placed 11th among large varsity division squads.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the way the girls represented themselves in Disney,” TJ coach Marlo Petersavage said. “They hit their routine and surpassed every goal we set for the team.

“We cheer on the sidelines and love to support our teams at the school, but this is for us. We put the practice in and compete for ourselves, always pushing to do better than the previous performance. I’m so proud of the work the girls put into this season and the success we’ve had as a team. It was an amazing season.”

The TJ cheerleaders finished first at the following events this year:

• South Park Eagle Cup Championship / medium varsity division.

• State competition at Indiana (Pa.) University / medium varsity division.

• UCA regionals at Slippery Rock University / large varsity division.

The TJ girls landed a bid to the UCA nationals at Walt Disney World off their performance at Slippery Rock.

•WPIAL finals at Hempfield High School / medium varsity division.

“This team has blown me away this season,” said Petersavage, who is assisted by Brie Nassan and Morgan Stupar. “They worked incredibly hard to get where they are. Over the last few years, we have really been working to build our program. The talent was always there, but these girls have put in the time and dedication to make themselves the team they have become.

“It is rare that cheerleaders are recognized for the amount of time that goes into a season. We have our own competitions along with cheering for other varsity sports at the high school, so the dedication truly goes a long way.”

Senior Tori Weisbrod is the Jaguars’ team captain, with seniors Rachel McCoy, Caroline Ribich and Remy Zandier serving as assistant captains.

“To me, the most important part about being captain is keeping the girls united together as a team and ready to work hard each day,” Weisbrod said. “I am so proud of what my team has accomplished this season. We faced obstacles throughout the year, but all the girls and coaches kept a positive mindset and worked extremely hard to achieve our goals.

“I think I can speak for all the girls in saying that performing in the finals, as well as spending time together at the Disney parks, were unforgettable memories. I would also like to add how grateful all the girls are for our coaching staff, which has gone above and beyond to make this a season successful.”

Weisbrod is co-president of Thomas Jefferson’s student council, has a 4.2 GPA, and plans to attend a four-year college.

Other members of the 22-girl competitive spirit squad are senior Madison O’Donnell; juniors Matalyn Howley, Grace Konick, Mia Maddas, Jadyn Reinhart, Emily Rimsky, Alyssa Volomino and Bailey Weisbrod; sophomores Ana Barrickman, Nicole Keyock, Alayna Kihn and Nevada Kraus; and freshmen Isabella Bertini, Sarah Petrovich, Mary Pysh, Jaylin Taubes, Kylie Taubes and Miranda Ward.

“This team overcame a lot of adversity this season,” Petersavage said. “After almost every competition we faced new challenges, and the team conquered each one. We have a phenomenal group of seniors, and that has made a huge difference.”

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.