Following the first day of the JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals at Indianapolis, Synergy Athletics All-Stars head coach Lydia Maupin kept her team in suspense.
While peeking at the scoresheet for the Small Gym Small Senior Cheer B division, she was pleasantly surprised to see the team was in first place with 96.88 points. A perfect score is 98.
In reading the results to her team, Maupin started from the bottom and worked her way up. Once she said Synergy was in first place, it’s safe to say the girls were excited.
“We had a mini party because that was the first time this team has been in first,” Maupin said. “To come in first at nationals after such a rough start to this season was amazing.”
She said that was the highest score for any Synergy team in its two seasons of existence.
“To see those numbers posted, they were darn near flawless,” Maupin said. “It was a beautiful performance, and they sold their routine. It was great.”
All the team had to do on the second day was repeat its opening-round performance. Synergy once again was second-to-last to perform, so the coaches did their best to keep the girls pumped up.
After running through its 2-minute, 29-second performance, Synergy scored 96.95 to finish with an average of 96.80, giving the squad a national title.
“The coaches all had in the back of our mind, ‘We can do this,’” Maupin said. “But we kept the pressure on the girls that you’ve got to go out and give us Day 1 performance on Day 2. They hit, and it was great.”
Team member Megan Cravens, a junior at Seymour High School, said both days were full of emotion. When she learned the team was in first place after Day 1, she said she almost started crying.
“I hugged a few of my teammates and was just so proud of everyone and knew we could do it again the next day,” Cravens said.
Approaching the stage on the second day, Cravens said she thought she was going to pass out because she was so nervous. But the team came together and gave a great performance, Cravens said.
“I held my teammates’ hands as we stood in the circle waiting for the results,” she said. “Then, the moment finally came, and everything was instant bliss. A few people started crying, but everyone was cheering and smiling and jumping around. There is not a moment when I was happier or more proud of my teammates.”
Given the adversity the squad has faced, it was a proud moment for Maupin and assistant coaches Heather Kasting and Abigail Schrink. They started the 2014-15 season with 16 girls but wound up with 11 for this competition.
“We’ve seen change after change,” Maupin said. “It’s been a crazy year, so for them to go and pull off a national title with 11 kids and never having the same team at any competition this season is absolutely remarkable.”
The team was presented a banner and a trophy, and each girl received a national champion jacket.
“To be at such a large competition and now be able to finish the rest of our season with a national title under our belt, it’s really made their confidence go up and their performance,” Maupin said. “They even say the routine is a lot easier now that we have that win, and I’m like, ‘It sure is.’”
At the competition, there were more than 500 teams from 30-plus states and two countries competing in a variety of levels and divisions. Synergy competed in Level 2, but it was at Level 3 for its first two competitions of the season — World Spirit Federation in September in Lexington, Kentucky (third place) and JAMfest regional qualifier in November in Indianapolis (second place).
Winning the national title gave Synergy a spot in the U.S. Finals competition April 11 and 12 in Indianapolis.
This past weekend, the squad placed second at Cheerlebrity in Louisville, Kentucky. It will have two other competitions — NCA Wildcard Classic on Feb. 21 in Louisville and America’s Best on Feb. 28 in Nashville, Tennessee — before the U.S. Finals.
Through all of the competitions, Synergy performs the same routine, but the coaches make adjustments along the way after receiving judges’ critiques.
The routine is set in August. That’s after tryouts in April, teams are set in May and practices begin in June at Gymnastics Lane in Seymour.
All three coaches attend four days of training in Chicago in the summer to learn the newest techniques and also make connections with college coaches.
The first season of Synergy Athletics All-Stars was 2013-14, and it consisted of 16 girls in kindergarten through age 14.
In the winter of 2013, some older girls from Seymour and Brownstown expressed interest in starting a team. They put together a routine in eight weeks, placed second in their first competition in January 2014 and had two more meets.
This season, a prep team was added for age 3 through fifth grade, joining the lineup of a junior team (ages 6 to 14) and the senior team (ages 10 to 18).
Maupin said a few of the girls are cheerleaders for their school, but 90 percent of them are solely all-star cheerleaders.
“Most of them are going to pursue a college cheerleading career, so they see this as a way to make sure that they are up on the newest skills,” she said.
This is Cravens’ second year on the squad. The longtime cheerleader said she joined Synergy her sophomore year when she found out Maupin, her high school coach the year before, was starting her own all-star team.
“I could not resist,” Cravens said. “I have cheered ever since I was a little girl, and I love what I do. Nothing beats the feeling of stepping onto a competition mat with your teammates.”
So far, the experience has been great, she said.
“I love how close this team is,” Cravens said. “We are each other’s family and help each other out with anything and everything. Also, we all have so much fun at practice or at competitions. This team has helped me step up and be a leader and help the new cheerleaders coming in. It has also helped me to gain new skills so that I can make my team and myself better.”
Maupin said it’s neat to see the girls progress in their skills throughout the season and come together as a team.
“Whether we come in first and win a national title or we come in fourth, as long as they have hit that routine and they’ve given me goosebumps and I tell them that I can feel it, then that’s what makes it worth it because I know when we go home, all 11 of those kids truly care about each other and they really are friends,” she said.
The coaches also feel it’s important for the girls to take the lessons they learn in cheerleading and apply them to everyday life.
“We want them to pro-gress and be good members of our community,” Maupin said. “That’s what I always tell them, ‘It’s a good thing to be a part of this team, and let’s go and win. But also, the lessons that we’re learning along the way and making sure that we are giving back and doing what we can to help kids in the gym or be a part of the community, that makes it worth it.’”
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“I held my teammates’ hands as we stood in the circle waiting for the results. Then, the moment finally came, and everything was instant bliss. A few people started crying, but everyone was cheering and smiling and jumping around. There is not a moment when I was happier or more proud of my teammates,” Megan Cravens said of the Synergy Athletics All-Stars Senior squad earning a national title.
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The Synergy Athletics All-Stars Senior team captured a national title at the JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals on Jan. 17 and 18 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
Team members are Marissa Armstrong, Megan Cravens, Nicole Elmore, Miriah Lasher, Kaylee McFall, Lauren Pauley, Brooke Plummer, Megan Pottschmidt, Grace Rueger, Lisa Scott and Kaitlyn Winters. They are coached by Lydia Maupin, Heather Kasting and Abigail Schrink.
Synergy is based at Gymnastics Lane in Seymour. There are three teams: Prep (age 3 through fifth grade), Junior (ages 6-14) and Senior (ages 10-18).
For information, visit the team’s Facebook page, facebook.com/SynergyAthleticsAllStars.