Fox Chapel Area Leaders Qualify for National Courage Competition

Jan. 14 – Fox Chapel Area High School cheerleaders have reason to cheer.

For the first time in school history, the varsity cheerleading team earned a bid to compete at the 2023 National High School Cheerleading Championships at Disney World on February 10-12.

“They screamed in December when they found out they had an offer,” coach Aleta Balcer said. “Every score we had last year (from competitions) we just poured over the judges’ comments and worked from there.”

Senior Isabella Stipetich described the upcoming pageant as a “once in a lifetime experience” that she will remember forever.

“Cheerleading this year was one of the best years I’ve heard yet. This team means a lot to me, especially since it’s one of the last competitions the seniors have to be together,” said Stipetich.

Each participating high school cheerleading team must qualify for a bid by competing in regional competitions in 2022.

The NHSCC began in 1980 and was created to reward cheerleaders for their work on the band and to provide a place to showcase their talents and abilities.

Fox Chapel Area competes in the small varsity division without tumbling. The girls practice as much as possible between play obligations.

“It’s a very fast hip-hop style,” Balcer said of the routine choreographed by assistant coach Krista Zotolla, a 2017 FCAHS graduate.

Krista’s mother, Shelley Zottola, completes the team’s leadership team as an assistant coach.

Judging criteria will include difficulty and execution of the cheer, pyramid, jumps, dance, partner stunts, crowd management and overall performance.

“I am extremely excited to have this opportunity to compete in nationals with my team. This team has grown a lot throughout the year, and I am proud of the progress we have made. This is a great achievement for us being. a our first time going to nationals,” senior Kathryn Billings said.

Billings is a member of the competition team as are seniors Anna Li and Isabella Stipetich; juniors Fiona Brown, Mia Pietropaolo and Sophia River; sophomores Maurena Cilenti, Mary Ann Frauenholz, Gretchen Shelestak and Alexandra Vita and freshmen Catherine Conway, Trista Jackson and Emma Kurtz.

Representing the district as a cheerleader takes dedication and commitment, said parent Cherie Lauric River of Indiana Township, whose daughter, Sophia, is on the team.

“The girls are dedicated to practicing 2-3 hours every night throughout the year from one sport to another, including summer practices. This team of young women has dedicated hours, time and energy and most of all, discipline, to qualify for nationals. . It’s been an inspiration to watch the coaches and cheerleaders push themselves to the next level to achieve that goal,” River said.

Senior Anna Li has cheered with friends Billings and Stipetich since seventh grade. He described his journey as “crazy” as the three seniors prepare for the competition.

“The amount of work and growth I’ve seen over the years has progressed to a more competitive level. I’m so proud and thankful for all my teammates who have worked so hard to get where we are now,” Li said. . .

The competition will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Check local listings for the February 10-12 telecast on ESPN.

Joyce Hanz is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. You can contact Joyce by email at or via Twitter.

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