The Lawrence High School cheer team has placed at several competitions this year. Front: Veronika Hajduczka, Skylar Guadagno and Briana D’Alessandro. Center: Kaitlyn Prikril, Charlotte Cosentino, Morgan Stubbs, Mana Kurisu, Grace Dismukes and Madeline Hernandez-Mendez. Back: Shannon Ari, Nadia Williams, Elyse Lampkin, Cassidy Carroll, Sarah Marion, Maura Canavan, Kayla Jackson and Destiny Hemmer.

Skylar Guadagno looked forward to a unique opportunity during her final year cheering for Lawrence High School—this was the squad’s first time competing at the Universal Cheerleading Association Northeast Championship regional competition.

Guadagno, one of three senior captains for LHS, called the opportunity a “huge step” for the Cardinals cheer program.

“I’m absolutely honored to be captain of it, let alone be a part of it,” she said.

The team placed first in the small varsity coed division at regionals and went on to come in fourth in the large varsity division at the Colonial Valley Conference competition. Next, the girls will compete Jan. 13 at Monroe Middle School.

The Cardinals feel better about their routine because of a strong cohesiveness among the squad this year. It started back in August when they attended the UCA Summer Camp at Trails End in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

“You don’t get to know each better than when you live with each other,” Guadagno said. “Sharing two bathrooms with 17 girls, we got really close. And we shared one bedroom.”

Lawrence annually goes to a camp run by UCA, but had not been to the Trails End site. It was a new challenge for those returning and those new to the camp.

“This year we had to get used to it and it was very interesting,” said senior tri-captain Veronika Hajduczka. “It was a new group and we had to get used to each other. That’s where we learned so much about each other. We had to eat and live together. It was a bonding experience.”

The camp is a critical part of building the team. It is intense, but it is important to being able to devote an entire week straight to developing their routines.

“The camp really focused on coming together as a team and with other teams and building a bond,” Guadagno said. “We all learned everything together. We helped each other out, not only with our varsity team, but with our JV and other teams. It taught us to remain helpful and positive and support each other. It laid down the foundation for a positive, successful season. It was hard sometimes. We definitely hit obstacles at camp. Everyone is tired and you’re trying to throw up stunts and it’s not working, but having the whole team there helps everyone support each other.”

‘I realized as I got older, I have to reach my expectations because I’m a role model.’

The UCA camps end by naming All-Americans. Both Hajduczka and tri-captain Briana D’Alessandro were among the Lawrence cheerleaders named All-American. All-Americans from JV squads are eligible to perform in the Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia. Varsity All-Americans can perform in London at their New Year’s Day parade. Participants have to pay their own way. Last year, one of Lawrence’s captains, then-senior A’Joule Giovanett, went to London.

Other All-Americans from the Lawrence squad were juniors Maura Canavan, Cassidy Carroll, Grace Dismukes, Nadia Williams and freshman Kaitlyn Prikril. Freshman Angela Johnson was named All-American from the junior varsity.

“They audition in front of the entire camp,” said Lawrence coach Adrienne Wasserleben. “It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of everybody. There are probably about 20 schools per camp session. There were teams from Canada. You’re getting this whole range of teams with skill sets and abilities coming together. It’s really neat.”

The talent level bodes well for the Lawrence squad. It shows they have a lot of potential to mold into a strong unit. Guadagno said she and Hajduczka were even asked to try out to be staff in UCA camps in coming summers.

“We have plenty of girls who made All-American. I’ve made it the last two years. It goes to show we possess talent, but also behind the scenes we have a strong bond with each other, which is important when it comes to being a team,” she said.

It’s the second year that Hajduczka was named All-American. Like Guadagno, she has been a member of the LHS varsity for four years.

“For me, I have a lot more responsibility as a role model this year,” Hajduczka said. “As a freshman, I didn’t know what I was doing. I realized as I got older, I have to reach my expectations because I’m a role model.”

Lawrence has been working to fine tune its routine since the camp. While they cheer for Lawrence sports in the fall and winter, they still must work on progressing for their own routine. They show their talent when cheering at LHS athletic events.

“We use all of our practice time to work toward our competition routines,” Guadagno said. “As we consistently hit them, we start to do parts of our routine at games. At halftime or time outs, you may see us do something from our routine. That’s how we practice doing our routine in front of a crowd.”

Guadagno says adrenaline takes over in competitions and it becomes muscle memory. The more practiced a squad is at their routine, the better it tends to go. Lawrence has been hard at work to perfect their routine for more than two months.

“At camp, that really helps us prepare for our season,” Wasserleben said. “They help us do amazing stuff there during that time. What we do is we have a choreographer. The one we hired this year is state certified and he actually a Lawrence High graduate which is pretty unique and he came through our program.” That would be Marquis Johnson, a UCA staff member and former Rutgers University cheerleader.

Guadagno is proud of how the team is developing. “Where we are today is way beyond where we were four years ago. The team four years ago was very good, honestly it was probably one of my favorite teams, but this team with how far we’ve progressed skill wise and what we can do makes me happy.”