FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Yorktown graduate Kayla Drake is a member of the Sacred Heart University cheerleading squad that won its first-ever University Cheerleading Association (UCA) National Championship, obtaining the title in the All-Girl Division 1 category.

“I feel honored to be part of this incredible accomplishment for my school,” said Drake, who is a freshman. “We were able to make history for Sacred Heart and I am so thankful to be a part of this team.”

Drake competed at the national championship on Jan. 18, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.

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“On this day, the team competed in the semi-final competition, and then advanced into finals,” Drake said. “At the end of the day, we ended up getting first place in the final competition.”

Drake felt fortunate to experience what she did in Florida.

“I feel very blessed to be part of the Sacred Heart cheerleading family and have the opportunity to continue my passion in cheerleading,” Drake said. “While I have been to UCA nationals multiple times with my high- school team, the college championship is much more competitive.”

The memory Drake said of winning that championship will last forever.

“Being surrounded by incredibly talented teams from universities all over the world was indescribable,” Drake said. “This is definitely something I will never forget.”

Sacred Heart won a title that many, including itself, didn’t expect to win.

“The All-Girl Division has been dominated by two teams (West Georgia University and Morehead State University) for more than 10 years and going into this competition our team did not expected to beat them,” Drake said. “The feeling when we won the title was disbelief, amazement and overwhelming happiness.”

To win a national title has been a lifelong goal of Drake’s.

“This has been my goal since I started YAC (Yorktown Athletic Club) cheerleading at 7 years old, and after 11 years, it has finally become a reality,” Drake said.

Drake said that Sacred Heart was able to win it all because of excellent coaching and hard work all season.

“We have been training for this moment on a daily basis since Aug. 1, even through the summer and holiday breaks,” Drake said.

At practice, Drake said that Sacred Heart would work on perfecting its technique and execution.

“Our mantra was not to practice until you get it right, but to practice until you can’t get it wrong,” Drake said. “None of this would be possible without the talent of our coaches, CJ Sereno, Lauren Grieci and Melissa Poli, along with the support from our athletic department.”

Drake said that her experience, with YAC and at Yorktown High School, prepared her for the rigors of Division 1 competition.

“After participating on the YAC cheerleading team for six years and the YHS varsity cheerleading team for four years, I was able to learn so much about this sport,” Drake said. “I knew being on a Division 1 competitive cheerleading team would be challenging. However, I felt confident because my coaches helped prepare me to be the best cheerleader I can be.”

One of those coaches was Angela Battista.

“My varsity coach, Angela Battista, taught me commitment, perseverance, and to always give 100 percent effort at every practice and competition,” Drake said. “After 10 years of cheerleading at Yorktown, I was very prepared for the commitment of a D1 team.”