Competing for Team Canada, five cheerleaders from Morinville won silver in the Junior Coed Advanced division at the 2022 World Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida, in April.
Paige Howells, Kennedi Knight, Katie Krukowski, Lilyah Richardson, and Kendall Weiss have since returned home with their well-earned hardware.
Knight and Weiss each picked up their second career World Championship silver medal to go along with the gold they won together at the 2019 Pan-American Championships. This year was Richardson's first time competing at the World Championships, but she previously won the gold with Knight and Weiss in 2019 for Junior Team Canada.
For Richardson, performing on such a big stage was nothing short of nail-biting, "I was really nervous," she said.
"When I walked out, the first people that I saw were actually friends and family of our team and [Perfect Storm Athletics], so I felt right at home.”
Weiss, a World Championships veteran, knows what she must do to stay poised to perform at important competitions: "I just breathe, take a moment to collect myself, and [pretend] it’s just another run.
"As long as I keep that mentality, it’s fine.”
This year was Weiss's last year to compete with Junior Team Canada, something she said is, "bittersweet because it’s so much fun being able to represent your country and it’s such an amazing opportunity." She said, "not being able to do it again, with the Juniors at least, is a little upsetting, but hopefully I can make Premier Team Canada which is the big, big guys.”
Howells and Krukowski were Team Canada rookies for this year's World Championships.
The Junior Coed squad wasn't Canada's only medal-winning group, as the Adaptive Abilities team won gold in their Unified Median division, and Canada had silver-medal winners in the Youth All Girl Median and Youth Coed Median divisions.
From small town to world stage
“It was like family getting together really," Weiss said about performing far from home with her hometown friends. "We all had each other’s backs and we made sure we were all looking perfect; everyone was in the right mental head space and in the zone.”
For Richardson, being able to compete with her long-time friends was a dream come true.
"Morinville being a small town and everything, I’ve known Paige and Kennedi for years. Kennedi and I were in the same gymnastics class [and] when we were really little, Paige and I did dance together.
“I’ve always wanted to be on a team with Paige, and we actually got to base together, so it was really great.”
Richardson had high praises for Junior Team Canada rookie Howells.
"She definitely took on a leadership role: being a role model and being really encouraging," Richardson said.
"She has very great leadership qualities already, so she was stepping up to the plate and pushing the nerves down because we did have some younger people on the team,” said Richardson.
Weiss and Richardson aren't sure what the future holds for their cheerleading careers.
“I don’t know if I’m going to retire yet," Weiss said. "Just because I’ve been doing it for so long, I think my body might need a break ... but we’ll see where life takes me.”
Richardson said she is “planning on cheering for I think one more year, maybe two, it depends."
The annual World Championships mark the end of the competitive cheer season. According to a Facebook post by the International Cheer Union, the organization which hosts the competition, almost 3,000 athletes competed in 2022.