A local dance team took on first place at a recent state cheer competition. The University of Gymnastics Cheer Team hopes to continue its winning streak this weekend when the group performs at the US Finals competition in Dallas.

The team is made up of 19 girls ages 6-12 years old.

“Avery and Presley have both cheered for University of Gymnastics for 4 seasons,” Team Coach Jerica Ferguson said in an email. “This will be our first year competing at the US Finals.”

During the Winter Wonderland competition held in February, the group placed first in its level and received the grand champion award. This solidified the group’s bid to the fun cheer nationals. At the open state championship the group placed first and at the Sweetheart Classic also held in February, the group won first place and won the parent spirit award.

“At the Dallas Maverick Championship, they won first place, level grand champion, and a bid to US finals,” Ferguson said.

The girls were surprised when they found out that they would be going to the state finals competition, she continued.

“More so, extremely excited!” Ferguson’s email said. “The Dallas Maverick Competition had the largest division that we had been in all year and we were going against some of the toughest teams we had seen all season.”

Ferguson said what these girls have done is really amazing because cheering is popular and competitive and requires a lot of athletic ability.

“We typically practice and an hour and a half to two hours a week,” she said. “On competitions week, we add one, sometimes two extra practices. Every girl on the team is either in an extra class or takes private lessons. So each cheerleaders works out at least three hours a week. Two of our cheerleaders, Presley and Novalee, also compete on our competitive tumbling team coached by our owner, Em Hanley.”

It is important for people to understand, Ferguson said, that these are young athletes made a choice to commit to a team for a full year.

“They gave up their free time on the weekends to practice and compete,” her email said. “Practices are never easy. This includes conditioning, tumbling, stunting, jumping and dancing.”

Cheering teaches a lot of life lessons, Ferguson said, and there are things she hopes the girls take with them in the future.

“My main goal for this young team is to mold them into coachable kids in whatever they choose to do,” she said. “Winning first place feels great and is a plus for sure, but I want these kids to learn how to work hard for what they want and become successful.”