Julie Drelick of Weirton is a flier.
That means that as a member of the Fairmont State University cheerleading squad, she is thrown into the air to twist and tumble, falling and landing — usually — in the arms of her teammates.
“I was really scared at first,” Drelick said Saturday of her position on the squad. “Now I’m not scared at all. I kind of got used to it. You have to trust your bases and trust yourself.”
That teamwork helped the squad members last weekend when they performed what some members called the most perfect version of their most difficult routine, hitting every mark and not falling at all.
The routine landed them a second-place finish at the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) National Championships All-Girl II division at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., held Jan. 12-14.
“This competition, even though we got second place, we really performed well,” Drelick said. “We really came together the week before the competition. That’s usually when people fall apart.”
A team from the University of West Georgia took first place, noted Dee Johnson, the Falcons’ cheerleaders’ head coach.
The FSU women have been going to this competition since 1995 and have taken top honors five times, Johnson noted, in 1995, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005.
“We’ve always been in the top three,” Johnson said. “We’ve never been below third place in the years we’ve gone.”
A regulation 20 of the team’s 23 members competed, Johnson noted. The women flew down to Florida, conducting fund-raisers to come up with the money for the trip.
The team was selected after submitting a qualifying video last October. Members performed a 2 1/2 minute routine that both Johnson and Drelick called a difficult one.
“It’s the hardest routine I’ve ever been a part of,” Drelick said. “It was an amazing feeling to go down there and hit the whole thing. No one fell. That was good. That was the best feeling. It’s by far the most talented squad we’ve ever had.”
Drelick first saw the Fairmont State cheerleading squad perform at an exhibition in Charleston and knew she wanted to attend the school.
“I thought it was cool that they were so close to my hometown,” she said.
Junior Theresa Pedersen, a native of Virginia and a member of the squad, also selected Fairmont State because of the cheerleading team.
“I saw a magazine article in American Cheerleader magazine on the Fairmont State team,” she said.
Also like Drelick, Pedersen also is a flier, and she knows the risks involved. As a freshman, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that sidelined her for a while.
“This was my first year without a brace on,” Pedersen said.
The routine felt good to Pedersen, and this year was better than last even beyond not having to wear a brace.
“It was amazing,” she said. “We went out on the floor with a lot of confidence. Because we hit the routine so many times, we knew what we were capable of doing. Last year, we weren’t really ready for a lot of stuff. We would hit some things and not others. The confidence level was real low.”
In a sport where members throw others into the air and catch them, teamwork and synergy are vitally important.
“At the beginning of the year, it’s kind of scary,” Pedersen said. “After you do so much stuff with the girls and they risk themselves to catch you, the bond gets stronger and stronger.”
Eleven colleges competed all together in the same division, Johnson noted. In addition to Fairmont State, Concord College in Athens also represented West Virginia, placing fifth.
“I was very thrilled with the way they performed,” Johnson said. “I was upset by only getting second. We lost by only eight points.”
The team could earn a total of 400 points, Johnson said.
As a junior, Pedersen still has another year to perform and compete, but not Drelick, who will begin student teaching and therefore even will miss cheering for teams for the rest of the semester.
“I’m done,” she said. “I can’t even finish the season.”
Drelick expects to coach future cheerleaders in addition to teaching. Pedersen does not know yet.
“My body is ready for it to be done, but I know I’ll miss it,” Pedersen said. “I might end up coaching.”
E-mail Mary Wade Burnside at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Drelick of Weirton is a flier.
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