BROCKWAY — During Christmas break, four Brockway Area Junior High School cheerleaders had the opportunity to cheer for a nationally televised college football game, and they all came away with more confidence.
Senior Savannah Ross and juniors Samantha Barber, Karissa Fremer and Trevor Murray joined nearly 600 cheerleaders to perform during the pregame show of the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, which more than 40,000 people attended, according to Google, and millions watched on television. Coming from a small school, the four said the experience of cheering in front of so many people wasn’t as scary as they thought.
“I would rather perform in front of that many people than in our gym at school,” Ross said. “There were almost 600 other people in the audience to watch. We fit in well with the whole group.”
“I was more nervous at the Jefferson County Fair because I got to see more faces,” Barber said. “At the Citrus Bowl, there were so many people that they were just little dots.”
The group joined Varsity Spirit, a division of Varsity Brands, which is a cheerleading, dance team, and band apparel company that supports camps and competitions, according to a news release. Brockway hosted a summer camp in July that was run by the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA), and Ross said the auditions during that time were intense.
“We had to try to be All-American,” Ross said. “They taught us a routine, and we had to do one of the two cheers, and we had to do a jump. Tryouts were nerve wracking because we were in front of our team and teachers. We had to wait three hours to find out we made it. That whole ‘Did I do it?’ thing was hard.”
For Fremer, the whole experience was surreal.
“I was surprised I did it,” she said. “I thought everyone else did really well. When it was time to go, I felt unprepared. It felt unreal. It didn’t feel real until I got on the plane to go to Orlando.”
Once selected, the Brockway Cheerleaders joined their cohorts from across the country in Orlando at the Universal Studios Resort. While there, they enjoyed Universal Studios, mentioning the Spider-Man ride and the Harry Potter attractions, and visited the city, eating new foods. However, the sights weren’t the cheerleaders’ favorite part of the trip.
“I loved meeting new people,” Fremer said. “You stay with the people you came with at first, but then you get into groups that you’ll perform next to and spend time with.”
“I’m very social,” Murray said. “I made new friends while I was there.”
However, it wasn’t just a leisure trip, and the early kickoff between LSU and Purdue kept the cheerleaders busy.
“They sent us the routine videos two weeks after Thanksgiving, and we had two weeks to prepare,” Ross said.
“We watched a video of how our performance should be, learned our dance, and then they taught us more when we got there,” Murray said. “We did our practices there. I was nervous to learn the routine. There were 559 others there, and they kept telling us we could do it, and we’d have fun.”
All four of them have been cheering in Brockway since they were little. For example, Ross started in second grade, and Barber remembers doing competitive cheer when she was 8 years old. However, the Citrus Bowl is the biggest crowd they’ve ever seen. The excitement calmed their nerves on the day of the performance.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Barber said. “I told myself, ‘You deserve to be here, so go out and have fun with it.’
“There were thousands of people, and you had to smile the whole time!” Murray said. “I would do it again.”
All four of them saw their invitations to the Citrus Bowl as a great honor.
“I came out of a small school, and there weren’t many schools from Pennsylvania,” Ross said. “It was an honor to be chosen.”
“I felt really special,” Barber said. “Having that opportunity was one of the greatest moments of my life.”
All of them encouraged others to try for opportunities.
“You get experiences like going to Orlando, and you won’t get that anywhere else,” Fremer said.