Palm Harbor Panthers: Preparing for Nationals


Kalista Photopulos, Staff Reporter

Sweaty hands, a pounding heart, and butterflies dancing in your stomach. You’ve practiced these skills a thousand times but the uncertainty still creeps in. Welcome to Pop Warner National Cheer and Dance competition.

The Varsity Silver girls are the only team in the Palm Harbor Panther organization who are level four, the most advanced level one can go in recreational cheer. Whether it comes to throwing a girl in the air or taking that first step towards a tumbling pass, these girls are fearless!

This will be Varsity Silver’s fifth time as a team going to nationals. Because girls are getting too old to be in the program and because their head coach expecting a baby boy, this could also be Varsity Silver’s last time going to Nationals.

Assistant coach Jewel Photopulos expects the team to take the title.

“We’re going to make sure we are stronger in every aspect of our routine so no deductions or low scores come our way. We’ve also taken new skilled girls onto our team so we are slowly adding more difficulty,” Photopulos said.

“This year we are a lot more supportive of each other on the team than these past couple of years,” cheerleader Ella Mcmahon said. “We were more competitive with each other and are trying to hit the stunt before the other group does.”

Reese Small, another member of the team, wants no less than a first place trophy.

“We need the most work in the littlest things. Motions, jumps, transitions and facials. Coach [Jewel] always says that in order to win, you have to sell it. Which is exactly what we’re going to do this year,” Reese said.

The Varsity Silver team spends four and a half hours in a cheer gym each week practicing and preparing for their first competition, Conference. In order to move to the next competition, Regionals, they must place in the top two at Conference. Once a team moves on to Regional level, they compete against all of the Southeast Region (Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia). Regionals takes the top two teams from each division and advances them on to Nationals.

Although Varsity Silver is level four, these girls are always looking for areas to improve or add more difficulty into their routines.

If you ever come to a Varsity Silver practice, you will hear positive remarks flying across the gym. It could be to an individual or to the whole team, but these girls love each other like family.