Three teams from Naperville’s Illinois Cheer Company (ICC) joined hundreds of All-Star cheerleading groups as they transformed Disney World into a world-class competition site.
The athletes traveled from 40 different countries to Florida for the United States All-Star Federation (USASF) Cheerleading Worlds competition.
All-star cheerleading is different than your typical school squad in the sense that it’s its own sport where athletes age 3-18 are divided into teams by age and ability. Those teams go on to compete against other teams in their same division locally and nationally.
“To come to a gym where expectations are so high and puts a demand on you so it pushes you to be better every single day is just great,” said Kylie Pommier, a member of Inspire, ICC’s Large Senior Coed Unlimited Level 5 team.
At ICC, the boys and girls can be found hard at work at the gym three times a week perfecting their competition routines.
“It’s an 11 month season,” said Jason Shapiro, the owner of Illinois Cheer Company. “We have one month off, and even then the gym is packed. So, they’re constantly wanting to train and better themselves.”
All their practice paid off when three of the gym’s teams received a bid to compete at the prestigious USASF Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, Florida. To receive a paid bid, you have to compete at a certain level at other competitions throughout the year.
“This is the best of the best,” said Shapiro. “What I consider the Olympics of the cheer world.”
“We were in tears, we were so happy,” said Pommier. “It was like the best feeling in the world. Because we worked so hard all year and then we finally got rewarded for it.”
The competitors brought their A-game to Disney, placing 21st, 6th, and 4th.
“Fourth in the world you know, that’s pretty cool to say,” said Louis Bianchi, a member of the Small Junior Coed Level 5 team.
“You’re with the best of the best teams of the entire world, so it’s really cool,” said Pommier.
“The hard work and training that they put in, that was their payoff. It was like their big birthday present at the end of their season,” said Shapiro.
To see how all the teams including those from Illinois Cheer Company, tune in to ESPN2 on Saturday May 15th at noon and Saturday June 5th at 10.