The inaugural Naperville North Cheerleading Invitational brought together 40 teams -- including several from Naperville and a number of squads now on their way to the state finals.
The contest on Jan. 13 drew about 1,300 fans to see teams from as far away as Bloomington, as well as from Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley, Benet and Lisle. The competition featured nine divisions ranging from junior high to high school junior varsity, varsity and coed divisions.
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"It was exciting to have four Naperville teams in the same competition right here in Naperville," Naperville North head coach Keri Storako said. "Many of the cheerleaders know each other from competitive cheerleading and tumbling lessons and were excited to see each other perform. It was amazing how supportive they are of each other."
For the first time, North competed in the coed division, which requires teams to have at least two boys on the squad. The other Naperville high schools and Benet competed in the large varsity division for teams with 18 or more cheerleaders and up to one boy.
The competition served as a way to raise money for North's cheer program. Coaches hoped fundraising would help reduce program participation fees, as well as help pay for new cheer mats that are safer and more portable, and pay competition and travel fees for future competitions. The main cheerleading fundraiser is the Daddy-Daughter Dance.
"Planning an event of this magnitude was challenging. I received lots of help from the cheerleaders, their parents and my assistant coaches," Storako said.
"My assistant coach, Christy Wingle, (was) nine months pregnant and … due four days after the date of the competition. We were all concerned about keeping her stress level in check and hoping that she did not have the baby until after the event."
Her husband also helped out and wanted to be close to her just in case he needed to rush her to the hospital to deliver the baby.
Storako called upon her entire family to help. Her mother, a former cheer coach; father, a former softball coach; sister, who teaches at North; and her husband, a baseball coach, all helped.
"We even had support from several of our cheerleading alumni who volunteered to help as time keepers, a task that was not easy because many (started) college classes within the next few days," Storako said.
North's junior varsity squad competed in its first competition of the season.
"This was a great opportunity for our team to face the pressure of competing, and I am excited they got to do it in their own gym," junior varsity coach Brooke Twohill said.
"Our team overcame some adversity. Two of our cheerleaders were unable to perform due to the flu and we had to re-do our routine just prior to the competition."
North's varsity squad placed second in the coed division and Neuqua's junior varsity team placed first. The varsity grand champion was Marist High School from Chicago, and the junior varsity grand champion was the Bradley Bourbonnais Boilers.
The North competition served as a warm-up to the state sectional competitions Saturday, Jan. 26. The top five teams in each division at sectionals advanced to compete in the state finals Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1 and 2, in Bloomington.
The following local schools advanced to the state finals:
• Lake Park, coed team;
• Naperville North, coed team;
• Glenbard West, coed team;
• Glenbard South, medium team;
• Montini, medium team;
• Timothy Christian, medium team;
• Neuqua Valley, large team;
• Naperville Central, large team; and
• Metea Valley, large team.