NORWALK, Conn. – Cheerleaders from the Norwalk Junior Football and Cheer earned their first berth to the national championships by finishing third in a regional competition Saturday in Providence, R.I.
The 32-member team and four-woman coaching staff of the Packers will compete in the American Youth Football championships Dec. 8 in Kissimmee, Fla. The team will host a dinner Saturday at Chatham Manor to raise money for the trip.
“I’m not going to say I’m surprised, but we did have some challenges,’’ said Nina Ruffin, co-head coach with Leslie Zullo. “We had 32 girls, so it was a large group. We combined our sixth grade team because we had a shortage of coaches. But I believed in them and knew they could do it.”
Norwalk finished third among 11 teams in the 13-and-under Large Red division, behind teams from Manchester, Conn., and Concord, N.H. The Packers, who finished third in the state competition earlier this month, came back in the regionals to defeat Newtown and Aspetuck, which consists of girls from Redding and Easton. Aspetuck had been a perennial national champion.
“I think what makes this team special is they all get along,’’ Ruffin said. “It’s more than just a cheer team. It’s a big family, so that helps.”
Saturday’s dinner will be 6 to 11 at Chatham Manor. The team is trying to raise $30,000 before it departs Dec. 6 for Florida.
The last time a team from Norwalk earned a trip to nationals was in 2007. Ruffin was a coach on a team that also competed in 2006.
Norwalk’s team includes Rayna Aguiar, Emilee Bach, Valeria Barragan, DaNasiah Blackwell, Caroline Desmonts, Casey Eaton, Lilly Fosella, Summer Hall, Kayla Henderson, Shannon Huzina, Genesis Johnson, Sarah Joyner, Anna Korytnyuk, Iman LaBorde-Mobley, Jordyn Lewis, Kayla Light, Kinsale Maloney, Olivia Massucco, Jessica Misorek, Hailey Parisi, McKenzie Parks, Jessica Pia, Michelle Porcheddu, Ariyan Prezzie, Alexandra Quintero, Angelica Rodriguez, Karina Rojas, Myah Simms, Brynn Spielman, Damiana Tuck, Aimee Whitman and Natalie Zullo.
Coaches include Ruffin, Zullo, Kelcie Wehmhoff, Cori Iannazzo and Diane Aguiar. Charlette Lewis is the team manager, and Maribeth Bach is the Norwalk Junior Football cheer coordinator. The Norwalk Athletic Association sponsors the team.
To attend the dinnder, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.