Pop Warner cheer squad leaps into national championships

Dec 6, 2018

Aaliyah Lobo spent her 13th birthday on tour with her Pop Warner cheerleading team at the most magical place on Earth: Disney World.

The Dartmouth resident and member of the Old Rochester Pop Warner cheerleading team competed in Pop Warner Nationals on Monday, traveling to Florida to compete after a challenging yet successful regular season. She was joined by her team, made up of cheerleaders from across the South Coast.

“It was very nerve-wracking but a lot of fun at the same time,” Lobo said of the competition.

In addition to a second place finish in the competition, the trip provided plenty of memories as well, both on and off the field. When they were not competing, the squad got to go on rides and explore the park.

”It was a lot of fun,” Lobo said. “It was a great experience.”

The group accepts cheerleaders starting at age five, and allows cheerleaders to participate until age 15. The years the cheerleaders spend together helps with camaraderie.

“I knew from the beginning that the team had promise,” said Amy Rapoza, the cheerleading coordinator. “They had cheered together for a lot of years.”

However, that does not mean teammates had an easy year. Multiple teammates had to drop out because of injuries, concussions, and health issues. Despite the injuries, the team persevered.

“They worked really hard and didn’t give up on themselves,” Rapoza said. “And the parents and coaches really pulled together when they had to.”

While Rapoza said that she was “thrilled to have the opportunity” to compete at Nationals, she was also nervous as the Dec. 3 competition approached.

“Practice the day before didn’t go as well as I had hoped,” Rapoza said. “Still, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased during the competition.”