Central Coast Elite (CCE), a local cheerleading training facility in San Luis Obispo, sent their team C4 to the D2 Summit in Orlando, Fla. and they returned as the No. 6 team in the nation. The team is comprised of 13 girls: Alexandra Allen, Alexandra Caballero, Emily Tobin, Grecia Bernal, Lauryn Gardner, Leah St. Arnaud, Makena Armstrong, Mariah Von Achen, Natalie Slayter, Riley Schwan, Mandilyn Cusimano, Rylan Troup and Sydney Abney. The girls are of all different ages, some as young as 11 and ranging all the way up to 18, and are from as far north as Paso Robles and as far south as Arroyo Grande.
In April, C4 traveled to Anaheim to compete in the American Showcase and came away with not only a victory but a ticket to the Walt Disney World Resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports for the D2 summit and a chance to being the No. 1 team in the nation.
The girls were up against 47 of the top teams in the United States, including some familiar foes that they had faced along the way. All the teams in attendance performed their routines on the first day before the field would be cut down to just the top 12 teams.
Even though the girls had qualified for the D2 Summit and performed well enough to win in Anaheim, they knew they needed to be perfect in Orlando.
“From the start of the year I knew this team had something special,” Head Coach Aly Mantell said. “But at the beginning of the season we kind of went hard and did a lot of difficult stuff and we didn’t execute as well as we should have. So towards the end, we kind of took out some of the high-risk things and we went with the stuff that was still difficult but clean and we executed really well.”
The minor adjustments to the routine made all the difference for the team. On Saturday the girls hit zero, meaning they executed a routine without a single deduction coming from their score.
The girls huddled together as they waited for Saturday’s scores to be posted, hoping they could crack the top 12. Then it happened: C4 was announced as the No. 10 team and were on to the finals.
“When we found out we were going to finals, I wasn't expecting it, to be honest,” Atascadero High School senior Makena Armstrong said. “I didn’t think we were going to make it to finals.”
C4 placed in the top 10 in the semifinal round which meant their score was high enough to make it to Sunday’s final round. They competed on Sunday with 14 teams in their division and with the pressure at its highest, they performed the best.
They hit zero again, this time putting together their best score of the entire year when they needed it most. They were again forced to sit and wait for winners to be announced. The girls sat down, fingers intertwined, trying to stay calm any way they could.
“They were feeding off of my vibe,” Mantell said. “Because I was super nervous and I didn’t know and I didn’t want to get them super excited and let them down.”
The teams were announced in ascending order starting at 14. A few teams went by and C4 still hadn’t been called. At the No. 10 spot West Coast Fame, a rival team from Whittier that had beaten C4 all year was announced. It was two spots below the spot they held after Saturday while C4 was in 10th. Four spots later the girls were called as the No. 6 team in the nation and the No. 1 team in California.
“I was shocked,” Paso High senior Lauryn Gardner said. “I didn't have words. I guess because I wasn’t expecting it.”
It is the highest a team from CCE has ever placed and the first time and a team have ever made it to the final day.