I’m back!! The last 5 days have been a whirlwind of activity and emotions so this might be a long post. After waking up at 4:45 AM, we flew to Orlando Thursday morning for the weekend of cheerleading. Thanks to an airplane delay, some ticket craziness, and insane traffic, we barely made it in time for my daughter’s practice with her team that evening. Talk about stressful! Following practice the kids had a team dinner with their coaches while my husband, oldest daughter, and I went to a Hibachi restaurant nearby. That was my first experience with a Japanese steakhouse (I’m kind of a picky eater). While I wasn’t brave enough to try most of it, I did really enjoy the chicken I got. I was so hungry by the time we got there, though, that I think my chopsticks would have tasted good if I ate them! LOL! Following dinner we headed back to our hotel so that I could begin the process of curling my daughter’s hair for the competition the following day. I was so glad when I could finally crawl into bed that night, but I did not get a good night of sleep. I think the stress of the day, the nervousness about the competition, and the fact that the pillows in the hotel where thin as paper kept me up most of the night and every night after. I am so tired this morning!
We spent Friday morning getting ready doing hair and makeup to prepare for the competition. We left our hotel extra early because we did not want a repeat of the night before. Our call time is always a few hours before the actual competition so we ended up sitting and watching other teams compete for quite a while before our girls went on. I think for me personally, watching the other teams just added to my nerves. The teams that made it to The Summit are the best of the best in the nation. It was just a huge honor that we made it there at all, and it was all a bit overwhelming. We were up against 24 other teams on Friday in the Wild Card round. We knew going into it that we had to be in the top 5 to make it to the finals on Sunday. Again, the competition was fierce. When it was finally our turn to perform all of the parents were scrambling and climbing seats just so we could get a good view. The arena was INSANE! Anyway, our girls performed and the parents all thought it went well. Maybe it wasn’t their best but none of us saw anything major happen. Boy, were we wrong! When the team came out, the parents started to cheer for them until we realized that they were all crying. We could quickly tell that these weren’t happy tears. Apparently there were a couple of stumbles and things that they believed were going to cost them their spot in the top 5. All of the parents were then on their phones watching the videos to see if we could see what they were talking about. Even the coaches were devastated. They kept saying that this never happens with this team. They had seen the score and knew that it was a low score compared to what the team normally scores. This team had been killing it all season long. They have won every single competition this season except the very first one. They work so well together as a team and their coaches have poured their hearts into these kids. They are all truly something special. The disappointment was too much to bear for some of them.
We wouldn’t know who the top 5 teams were until later that evening. Many of us even debated on whether or not to even go to the reveal because we had been given the impression that it was a lost cause. I am super proud of this team because despite the downer of the day, they all still wanted to be there together to hear the news. We all trekked over there at 8:30 PM and huddled together to wait it out. Of course they were running behind and we had to wait anxiously. When the lady finally walked out onto the field, our stomachs dropped because we just knew we weren’t going to hear our team’s name called. I decided that I was going to video the announcement just in case. The announcer started with the #1 team from the day and then went down in order to the 5thplace team. By the time she got to the end, we were fairly certain that we were out.
Let me tell you, when she said that the final team making it to the finals was us, I nearly dropped my phone as you can see. We were in utter shock! Everyone, including all the parents and coaches, was in tears. These were happy tears this time. One of the coaches said that she had been praying all day for a second chance for this team and that God had delivered. They had gotten their second chance to prove how amazing they truly are. I think the other coach was just in a state of shock. I was worried that she was going to pass out! It was such an incredible moment. We were going to the finals!
We got the day off on Saturday and spent it at Magic Kingdom. It was so great to be back in our favorite place. Disney feels like home. It rained and stormed most of the day so we didn’t get to ride everything the girls wanted to ride because most of the rides were shut down due to lightening. That was a disappointment, but we still had a great time.
Sunday brought the biggest day of all! We had an early start because we were the first team to compete. We were up against the other 4 teams from the Wild Card round on Friday and 10 new teams that qualified on Saturday. It was the best 15 teams in the country competing against each other. The team and parents were all a nervous wreck. Let me tell you, this team came in it to win it. They had something to prove after Friday’s disaster. They went out on that floor and gave it everything they had. They threw up their best performance of the entire season and left it all on that floor. All of their blood, sweat, and tears showed up on that floor. It was truly amazing to watch. This time, they all came off the floor crying happy tears. They knew that they had done their absolute best. They had redeemed themselves, and it was a glorious moment.
Later that day as we sat watching the kids holding hands and waiting to hear who had won, I was reflecting on the past few days and the entire season. This team is the truest picture of what hard work, determination, and teamwork will do for you. They got knocked down big time, at their very first competition together as a team at the beginning of the season, but they didn’t give up. It just fueled them to work harder. They went the rest of the regular season undefeated and earned their rightful place at The Summit where so many dream about going but never get the chance. They got knocked down once again on the first day, but they were given a second chance and weren’t going to let it go to waste. They pulled it all together and gave it their all. The competition was tough, and they could have totally given up, but they didn’t. They were ready to prove to the world how special they are. They may not have won, but they sure won the hearts of many. The little engine that could, did and did it with such style and grace. I couldn’t be prouder of every single one of them. They pulled out a top 10 finish and placed 9th in the country. I would say that is a win in my book!
Couldn’t we all learn something from these 14 fierce kiddos? I know I have been knocked down more times that I can count, and I have given up after many of them. I felt like I had been defeated and didn’t see the point in continuing to push forward, so I quit. I can only imagine where my life would be now if I hadn’t give up all those times. If I had just stayed the course and kept pushing through without letting the defeat weigh me down, who knows what could have happened? Let us all learn to have determination and unwavering strength and drive so that we can always push for our goals just like our fierce fourteen!