DHS cheerleaders head to nationals

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 2:12 AM

Some Durango High School cheerleaders who will compete in a national competition team practice for the big event in the school cafeteria

Monday afternoon. The cheerleading team will head to California later this month.

As cheerleading practice starts in the Durango High School cafeteria, music booms out of a portable stereo and the girls run laps around cushioned red mats.

"Durango is here, ready for our premiere," they shout in unison.

The high school's competition cheerleading team will travel to California later this month for the group's first performance on the national stage.

The dozen young Demons will compete against an estimated 35 other teams in the national competition's novice category. The team qualified for nationals at a competition held in the fall in Phoenix.

It has been a long road for the cheerleaders. Four years ago, coach Nancy Williams remade the team by starting over with freshmen.

Williams said she takes students' character into account.

"I'm just really picky about the girls I pick," she said.

Of this year's team, she said, "They're really great girls."

Many of the older girls have been on the team for three or four years. The competition team is drawn from a larger pool of DHS cheerleaders. Coaches and athletes said the group has become more serious.

"We've never really competed before," said Meghan Robinson, a junior. "We're a lot more experienced now."

As the girls stretched after running, assistant coach Jennifer Johnson told them to have fun as the March 27 competition approaches.

"I just want to remind you, we've already accomplished what we set out to accomplish: We're going," she said. "Just have a good time. Enjoy each other."

The team will leave for the competition in Anaheim, Calif., on March 26 and perform March 27. The girls will go to Disneyland on March 28. If they advance, they will compete in the finals March 29.

"I like the teamwork we have, all the encouragement we give each other," said McKenzie Sparby, a sophomore. "We worked really hard to get what we got, and we're working hard to make it even better."