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The Kadena High School cheerleading squad recently took third place in the small-school coed division and won the sportsmanship award for the entire high school division at the National Cheerleaders Association U.S. Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The Kadena High School cheerleading squad recently took third place in the small-school coed division and won the sportsmanship award for the entire high school division at the National Cheerleaders Association U.S. Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla. (Courtesy of Tammy Marshall)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Going into the National Cheerleaders Association U.S. Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., it might have seemed the odds just weren’t with the Kadena High School squad.

The mid-April trip marked the first time the school had sent a cheer squad to the championships, according to coach Tammy Marshall.

They were relatively green as a unit, she said.

“The squad formed right after basketball season and we only had about a month to practice. We took two boys who had no experience in cheerleading. We also took a girl from the (junior varsity) squad who didn’t have as much experience.”

And they were busy kids; even finding time everyone could practice was tough. Sometimes they started practice at 8 p.m., the coach said.

Then there was the competition itself: It was just one day and the eight-girl, four-boy squad had just 2½ minutes to give a performance that had to include stunts, dancing, tumbling and a cheer.

And they had to bring all this off on stage in front of a major crowd, said team captain Nicole Marshall, who is the coach’s daughter.

“The stage was crazy … just running out through the curtain onto the stage and seeing the crowd, it was different and so big,” she said.

All of which might explain her description of the team’s attitude entering the competition.

“We didn’t go to place,” said Nicole, who is a senior at Kadena. “We just went for the experience.”

But the senior also said she’s never seen the squad work harder.

It showed, said her mother, the coach.

“They were all really scared but they pulled it off … they hit every stunt. They hit everything; it was all clean and smooth.”

Apparently, the judges agreed: The Kadena squad, competing against seven teams in the small-schools coed division, placed third. And it won the sportsmanship award over 22 teams in the high school division.

“When they called our name, it was shocking,” Nicole said.

But team members feel as if the sportsmanship award is the most important, she said — and they were just as shocked to win it because they didn’t even know it existed.

“It shows we’re a good team, working together well and with other teams, too,” she said.

The high finish and overall experience at the competition excited the squad even more about cheering, the coach said.

“They’re already planning for next year.”

Kadena’s championship cheerleaders

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