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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Rough start to nationals trip ends on good note for Brighton cheerleaders

Apr 15, 2019 10:24AM ● By Josh McFadden

The Brighton Bengals took their cheer team to a national competition in Las Vegas where it finished second in its division. (Photo courtesy of Micah Worrell.)

By Josh McFadden | [email protected]

A fantastic season got even better at the end of February for the Brighton High School cheer team. 

The Bengals took part in the JAMZ National Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada, placing second in their division among 200 of the top squads from across the country. Head coach Micah Worrell was thrilled with the accomplishment.

“Overall, the competition went really well,” Worrell said. “Even though we didn’t take the title as national champions, I was impressed and extremely happy with how our team did. It’s still a huge accomplishment to go nearly undefeated all season and then to take second in the nation.”

Brighton almost didn’t achieve second place at the national competition. In fact, the Bengals nearly didn’t make it to Las Vegas. 

Things started off on a bad note when the team’s flight was canceled. This turned a quick trip in an airplane into a grueling 12-hour bus ride through the snow. By the time the Bengals finally arrived in Vegas, they found they didn’t have any practice rounds available because the event staff didn’t have enough people to cover all the stations (due to additional flight cancelations). To complicate matters even more, it was difficult checking into the hotel because credit cards weren’t working. 

“The trip was a complete nightmare,” Worrell said.

Worrell worried that his team would be mentally burned out and exhausted after this fiasco. To their credit, the athletes shook off the disappointments and ordeals to put together fantastic routines.

“The team stepped up and knew they were there to do a job, and they delivered,” he said. “It goes back to the mentality I try to teach all my athletes I work with: No matter what happens in practice, school or life, there are zero excuses for not putting your absolute best out there.”

The competition was intense at the event. The smallest error could send a team far down in the standings. Worrell knew the team had to be at its best. Brighton’s athletes excelled and thrilled their coach. 

“What makes it memorable for me as a coach is when the team knows that they hit their routine and gave it everything they had,” he said. “The moment the music stops, you can see their faces light up, and the tears start coming because they are proud of their performance. They are proud of their team and all the hard work they put in to get there. That's what makes all the practices, stress and chaos worth it to me.”

It’s been a unique season, to say the least, for the team.

Worrell stepped in and took over the team after the previous coach resigned in September. The unexpected change made the first part of the season hectic. 

“The first month was crazy making the changes and getting the athletes used to our style of coaching,” he said. “At first, I think it was a shock for the team because of the level of intensity we were pushing them at practices, and they just weren’t used to that. But, they handled the overall adjustment well, and we had tons of support from the school and parents, which helped make for a smooth and successful season. Looking back at where we started to where we are now is night and day, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

Success at the competition and during the season as a whole hasn’t come automatically for Brighton. Though the team has talent, Worrell said the Bengals couldn’t have performed so well in Las Vegas and couldn’t achieve their goals this season without the proper physical and mental preparation. 

“A lot of people don't fully understand what it takes to be a cheerleader, especially one that competes,” Worrell said. “There is more to it than pompoms and yelling cheers. It takes hours of intense focus and practice to fine-tune every piece of the ‘machine.’ Just like other sports, our athletes need to not only be physically strong but also mentally and emotionally. I know without a doubt my staff and I pushed this team harder than any coaching staff before us. The team might have hated it (and us) at times, but they stepped up to the plate time and time again. It's that work ethic that can be the defining factor of a championship team.”