If you go to Disney World, you’re almost certain to see Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto.
If you’ve been there over the past seven years, there’s a good chance you saw Taylor O’Connor, and for her, it is the place where dreams come true.
O’Connor is a senior on the St. Hubert High School cheerleading team, and this year marked her fourth year on the varsity squad. It also marked the fourth straight time she went do Disney to compete in the national cheerleading competition. She also went three times when she was cheering for Crispin.
But she’s not taking winter vacations. These are business trips. And make no mistake about it, every time O’Connor goes to Florida, her team takes care of business.
For the fourth straight year, O’Connor’s team placed at the National High School Cheerleading Championships. This year, the varsity team took second overall in the Large Varsity Division 2 group.
It wasn’t the only reason the Bambies were happy. The JV Brown team won the national championship and the JV Gold team finished third in the nation.
It couldn’t have been a better trip for O’Connor and her teammates.
“It was pretty cool, it was awesome,” said O’Connor, a Mayfair native who lives in Somerton. “It means everything, it means so much. It’s so rewarding because we work so hard. We do it every year, and it means a lot because this year, we all won.”
This has been quite a successful year for O’Connor in many ways.
The Bambies have been racking up awards and honors all year, including a state championship and emerging as best in the Catholic League.
But O’Connor also won a prestigious individual award when she won the MVP at the All-Catholic competition. It’s a big honor for the four-year varsity cheerer, who was a main tumbler and a center flyer for the Bambies for the bulk of her career.
“That meant a lot, too, but not as much as the team championships,” O’Connor said. “You wear a ribbon in the routines, and there’s a judge who watches you the entire time, and then the one with the best score gets it. It’s pretty nerve wracking, but you just do what you always do.”
O’Connor’s cheering career isn’t over, but she is done cheering with her sisters on the St. Hubert’s team.
Next year, she plans on going to college to cheer. She is unsure of what she’ll major in, but she is interested in business.
And she’ll go to the school as an accomplished cheerleader.
Not only did she achieve a lot during her days at Hubert’s, but also when she cheered at St. Matt’s in grade school and later at Crispin.
Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, both of her previous teams also performed well during the national competition.
St. Matt’s took eighth in its group while Crispin won its group.
“It was great to see them win, too,” said O’Connor, who along with her teammates watched their neighborhood friends during their routines. “It was great for all of us. It’s a great competition. There’s so many great teams down there, and (Hubert, Crispin and St. Matt’s) did very well.”
No doubt O’Connor is going out on top, but that doesn’t make it any easier going on.
During her four years, she had a lot of great times, and as much fun as she had winning championships, that’s not even close to what she’s going to miss the most.
“I’m going to miss being around everyone,” O’Connor said. “There are so many great memories. We all worked so hard together, but I never minded it because of the people I was with. We had such a great time, in all of our competitions and being in Florida.
“I’m happy we (did so well) in Florida, but I’m going to miss the people. We pushed each other to do well. I loved cheering with them.”
The varsity team consists of Gabrielle Bermes, Taylor Blazejewski, Bella Carpino, Kayla Cono, Amber Dalton, Grace Dolan, Caitlyn Grailing, Hailey Guinter, Jane Hoger, Annie Kiessling, Haylie Klose, Nicole Lemerise, Hailey Lemly, Bridget Leneghan, Emily Livewell, Claudia McCabe, Jordan Mullen, Taylor O’Connor, Ashley Parkinson, Nicole Smith and Ava Springfield. The coaches are Paul Ballentine, Kristen Mahon, Mary Kate McKnight and Lisa McNesby.
The JV Gold team includes Katelyn Allen, Riley Bentley, Christina Berrios, Kaleena Collins, Chelsea Criollo, Hanna Custren, Madison Donsky, Jade Gambino, Breanna Hoey, Genevieve McManus, Madison McNamee, Magalis Mota, Keri Panasevicz, Gianna Postowski, Shea Quinn, Erin Schmidt, Kelly Seklecki, Brooke Smith, Kaelyn Sweeney, Jeilynn Velez and Lauren Wojnicki. The coaches are Chelsea Kerrigan, Kristine Lemongelli, Mary-Kate Matozzo, Christa Mansi, Gina Mansi and Kristen Sheeron.
The JV Brown team consists of Alyssa Baisch, Sophia Bowen, Gianna DeNofa, Brenna Eddis, Erin Fitzpatrick, Victoria Gerstle, Maddie Gibson, Taylor Handley, Alyssa Heron, Caitlyn Hofner, Nicole Huff, Madison Lemly, Makayle Lutey, Sofia Magat, Nancy Magee, Aliana Marshall, Ailish McDermott, Olivia Ovington, Jayla Robinson, Jorgelina Rodriguez, Mackenzie Sargent, Mary Kate Stine, Michela Weber, Taylor Wilson, Kellilyn Wissman and Jaime Yaworski. The coaches are Erin McShea, Kelly McShea, Caitlyn Insetta and Lauren Fong.