RARITAN, NJ - The Varsity and Junior Pee Wee Pop Warner cheerleaders were honored by Raritan Borough Tuesday for both winning national championship titles at the 2017 Pop Warner National Cheer and Dance Championships.
"This is an unprecedented achievement," Raritan Mayor Charles McMullin said, reading proclamations to the two teams that declared Jan. 12 as Varsity Cheerleader Day in Raritan and Jan. 19 as Junior Pee Wee Cheerleader Day in Raritan. "It is a quite amazing achievement to have by both teams."
It was the first time ever that both Bridgewater-Raritan Pop Warner teams won national championship titles.
The two teams qualified at the regional level, where only two teams advance from each division, earning their spots to represent the Eastern Region, which includes teams from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. At the national level, teams from eight regions across the United States converge annually at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida to compete for a championship title.
Both teams won the national championship title, each earning first place in their respective divisions.
The varsity team, consisting of 32 seventh and eighth grade athletes, earned the additional honorarium of Grand Champion, pulling the highest score of the entire five-day competition, across divisions. The team had no deductions, with a clean routine and outstanding showmanship.
In 2016, the varsity team won third place at Nationals, before bouncing back to win first.
The Junior Pee Wee team, with 24 athletes competing, is made up of third through sixth grade athletes, and is the only team in the organization’s history to finish the season undefeated, with first place wins at the local, state, Eastern Region and National levels. After finishing third last year out of 16 teams at Regions, and not advancing to Nationals in 2016, the team came back this year to win every competition of the season.
The group made history for the first time in 2015, when Bridgewater-Raritan Pop Warner won its first National Title in the program’s history. Subsequently dividing into two teams to accommodate Pop Warner’s age matrix, the teams have continued on parallel paths.
For 19 girls on the varsity squad and four members of the Junior Pee Wee squad, this season is their second National Title.
The season began in August, when the teams began training alongside the football teams, practicing for 10 hours per week. After Labor Day, the girls moved inside for practices during the week and side-line cheerleading at Sunday football games.
For many members of the teams, this has been the ritual since kindergarten, through the eighth graders graduating this year.
The teams are also made up of parent and community volunteers dedicating their time as coaches, team parents and board members. In addition, Bridgewater-Raritan High School varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders often return as Pop Warner alumni to serve as demonstrators to the younger girls.
The varsity squad is led by head coach Dawn Brady and assistant coaches Kristin Cacchio, Kerrin Marmolejos and Patricia Wolf, with demonstrators Val Barone, Bre Goe and Nicolette Taylor. The Junior Pee Wee squad is led by head coach Jenny Carroll, and assistant coaches Hillary Djamoos, Stephanie Garcia, Michelle Gibbons, Cynthia Lant and Liane Regenye, supported by demonstrators Rose Carroll, Larissa Vernak and Erin Weems.
The teams receive support from cheer commissioner Shari Madsen, who oversees the Bridgewater-Raritan Cheerleading Program in its entirety.
Head Coach Jenny Carroll contributed to this report.