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Fairfield County Team Cheers Its Way to the Top

The Norwalk-based Xtreme Cheerleading team does everything to the extreme. That includes winning championships.

Xtreme's 14-and-under Junior team, which includes 20 girls mostly from Fairfield County, captured the club's 10th national championship recently at the U.S. Spirit National Championships in Orlando. Competing in the level three class, the girls won the grand championship, accumulating the highest score out of 28 teams in a variety of age classifications. (Watch a video of the team here)

"It was a big surprise to beat every team in level three,'' said Mike Talbot, who coaches the girls along with his wife, Dana. "We knew before the season this would be one of our strongest teams. We saw this coming. It's impressive what they're doing at such a young age."

Talbot said the group separates itself from its competition with its strong tumbling skills. "They tumble their butts off,'' he said. "It's not easy, but they make it look easy. They brought it to the stage and it pushed them over the top."

The competition included teams from as far away as Colombia and took place over two days. Xtreme led by three points after the first day, and then pulled away to win by 15 points. They defeated a team from Georgia that had won the division for 16 straight years. "One of their coaches told us that this was the first time they had any competition,'' Talbot said.

What further impressed Talbot is that his team won with limited practice time. They train two times a week for less than four hours. Six teams train with Xtreme, which also works with teams from several high schools. "For them to do that with that little training is amazing,'' Talbot said.

The Talbots have been coaching cheerleaders since 2004. Mike is a former cheerleader at the University of Connecticut, and Dana is a former gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University. The program is similar to an AAU basketball program, where the best cheerleaders from the area are selected for the team. There are only a handful of competitive cheerleading teams in the state. Many programs are gymnastics programs that also incorporate cheerleading. The Talbots tailor their program to cheerleading exclusively. Girls ranging from age 3 to 19 participate with Xtreme.

"It's awesome when you see them improve,'' Mike said. "You watch them get on the high school teams and some of them go on to cheer for college squads."

The U.S. Spirit competition was one of the club's marquee competitions. The season concludes with the U.S. Finals on May 7, an event that included nearly 700 teams last year. In the meantime, the girls and the coaches can celebrate yet another championship. "Every championship is different, but each one is special,'' Mike said.

Team members of the junior national champions include: Norwalk's Sophia Buitrago, Michaela Santalucia, K.K. Benaduci, Alexa Cassara and Chelsey Martylewski; Greenwich's Cameron Monette, Camille Monette, Claire Loughran, Hannah Korman, Lara Gabriel and Molly O'Connor; Stamford's Hanna Gilpatrick and Lana Foglio; Fairfield's Maggie Stopa, Nicole Warner, Nina Martucci and Tess Atkins; Weston's Kylie Packer; Stratford's Kelly Ceccarelli and Victoria Leon of Westchester, N.Y.

Have you seen the Xtreme cheerleaders perform? What do you think? Start the discussion below!

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