TOWNSEND -- "Cheer to win," that is the motto that North Middlesex Junior Midget Level 2 cheerleading head coach Bonnie Wright uttered to her team before it stepped on the mat for the Pop Warner Cheerleading National Championship.
Three weeks -- that is all the Cowboys had to fundraise for its trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. North Middlesex Pop Warner's Junior Midget Level 2 team and Junior Pee Wees together reached their goal with the support of many local businesses and sponsors.
It was a league-wide effort as cheerleaders across the various age groups filled in while the junior midgets were out supporting the football team.
"The community was incredible," Wright said. "They ran a comedy night, a cow bingo.The electronics raffle was a huge fundraiser for us, and the help of ToysRUs in Nashua, N.H. It was incredible, the number of companies who came forward."
The junior midgets are comprised of girls 10- to 14-years-old, bounded through Regionals en route to the National Competition held last week at ESPN's Wide World of Sports.
The Cowboys' hard work and fundraising efforts paid dividends as they were crowned Junior Midget National Champions.
"We had one day after competition where we all spent the day at Disney World," Wright said. "It was intense. When you're in the practice room, you don't know who you are up against. The girls were in awe. Every one of them, it was their first trip to Nationals. It was stressful, but that performance they hit on that day was their best performance."
North Middlesex was treated like royalty when it arrived at Disney's Wide World of Sports. The Cowboys cheerleaders were subjected to both team and individual interviews with reporters from ESPN.
"They treat them like queens," cheerleading director Jillian Twigg said. "The interview with ESPN was one of the best experiences for the kids. They treat those kids like gold and do professional photos. It didn't matter that every team did it -- it was their interview."
The girls were met at Logan International Airport in Boston by a state police escort. The state police brought the young ladies and their coaches as far as Dunstable. However, the escort didn't stop there.
Dunstable police and other local police departments swapped duties at the town border to bring the National Champions back to North Middlesex Regional High School in Townsend. Upon their arrival, over 100 supporters from all across the neighboring towns lined their cars up and directed their high beams on the local stars.
North Middlesex Pop Warner's largest competitor was an instate foe, Everett. North Middlesex went up against six of the best teams in the junior pee wee elite division.
"Bonnie's group is coming back national champions," North Middlesex Pop Warner director Steve Sheldon said. "We wanted to continue it -- that's why we went into the police and fire escort. Dunstable Police, Ashby Police and Fire all picked up. All the cars lined up next to each other with their lights on. There were so many cruisers in front of us. Finally, you could hear them coming on Route 119. The crowd down there was huge. We wanted them to celebrate being National Champions. I think these girls will be riding high for a while."
The team is comprised mostly of girls from Groton, Pepperell, Ashby and Townsend.
Members of the National Champion Junior Midget Level 2 cheerleading squad include Elizabeth Baldwin, Ellie Boyden, Deanna Capone, Kelsey Carlson, Sofia Dawson, Cheryl Donahue, Alina Francia, Kailyn Gass, Colleen Guerriero, Ashley Hanlon, Jillian Hersey, Jessica Ianucci, Jolene Lasorsa, Sofia Lovis, Shannon Luongo, Hannah Mance, Erica Mueller, Elizabeth Morgan, Jasmine Martens, Chandra Ouellete, Brooke Pelley, Marissa Riel, Jocelyn Valente, Serena Wheeler, Kiara Rivera, Victoria Robinson, Rose Urda and Jordyn Wright.
Coach Wright was assisted by Jaima Baldwin, Diane Aiello, Valerie Nogueira, Kayla Kirk and Jen Schmuck.
The Junior Midget Cowboys were not the only members of North Middlesex Pop Warner cheerleading to qualify for nationals. Twigg's Junior Pee Wee team placed sixth in Florida.