The West Lauderdale high school cheer squad is tumbling, stunting and cheering its way to the Universal Cheer Championships in Orlando, Florida. They are the first high school cheer squad from Lauderdale County to earn a spot in the event, which brings teams from all over the country to Disney World.
"It feels amazing, because we've never really had a goal this big before," said senior Millery Null. "So we're striving really hard for it, and we're hoping it's going to turn out in our favor."
Fellow senior Caroline Henson is thrilled to reach nationals as a senior.
"It's, honestly, one of the best feelings ever and it's like the peak in high school cheerleading, competition wise," said Henson. "It's the best thing that you can go to, the furthest thing."
Led by Head Coach Charlotte Chaney, the Knights have won state in both cheer and dance each of the last four years.
Laura Posey, owner of East Mississippi Cheerleading, helps prepare the girls once a week with Chaney by her side.
"These teams go early in the morning or late at night or after school," said Posey. "I mean, they have crazy hours just to get their routines put together."
"It's hard, but it's worth it," said Henson. "We come in, we get stretched, we warm up then we start running our routine immediately."
Null echoed Henson's sentiments.
"We're in here all the time!"
All those hours will culminate in a 2 1/2 minute routine when the Knights arrive in Orlando in February. They'll face schools from all over the United States, and because they are in division II, they'll be competing against schools that more than double their 900 plus student body.
"We have some of the best tumbling, I think, in the state," said Henson.
"It's all the dedication and the extra time that that's put in by all the talented girls on the squad throughout the years," said senior Heather Harris, who also believes the Knights' head coach is essential to the team's success.
"She's very into it, but that's what it takes to be on a team that's competitive," said Harris. "You have to have the proper leadership."