F-22 Raptors Represent the UK at Worlds

F22 Raptors at Worlds 2011

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On Tuesday 19th June, the Aviator Allstars' Co-ed Level 6 team, The F22 Raptors, flew to Orlando in Florida to start their trans-Atlantic trip which would culminate in competing at the 2011 USASF/IASF cheerleading world championships, representing ICC and the UK.

The first day was spend acclimatising to Florida's heat and humidity, with half the team heading for some retail therapy at a mall, and the other half relaxing by the pool. This was followed by evening training at the ICC gym, and home of Rush Allstars, in Clermont. This was a new and sweaty experience for most people who had only ever trained in the (normally cold and wet) United Kingdom. We could tell training was not going to be easy with slippery hands and dehydration challenging our training from day 1!

We then headed to Brandon near Tampa for 3 days to train at the gym and home of world champions, Brandon Allstars. Luckily this gym had an enormous helicopter blade ceiling-fan to keep us a little cooler - we just had to make sure we didn't throw our flyers too high in their baskets! During our stay, we were lucky enough to watch their two level 5 teams train and a visiting all girl level 5 team, Cheer Corps Generals, to see how training gets done stateside! It was an amazing experience for all our athletes and we all came away from their training more focused and determined.

The coaches and staff at Brandon were all very friendly and we drew on their knowledge and experience to improve our routine and skills, with a lot of input from head coach, Peter Lezin. That Friday evening was spent relaxing and socialising with members of the Large Co-ed Senior team, followed by an exploration of Brandon nightlife!

The following day was our "rest day", yet most people decided to train anyway (you can never have enough cheer!) and many people gained new skills, with special mentions for Rachel Pearson, Becky Hopton, Stefan Warren, Jonny Rattigan, Jakk Lowry and Adam Sturgess for their hard work, all gaining new tumbling skills.

The following day, after some light training in the morning at Rush Gym, we were joined by our fellow UK cheerleaders from Unity Allstars Black, for a barbeque social and open gym session, which was a great chance to catch up with friends representing the same country as us.

At the start of week two, we headed down to Miami, to train at the gym of the world famous Top Gun. Walking into the gym, we could sense the sweat, hard work and dedication that had occurred in there, which got us well and truly pumped up for practice! This gym can only be described as HOT, and we were sweating before we had even put our training shoes on! The next few days were spent tweaking and running the routine with one of their top coaches, Corey Hines.

Tuesday evening gave us the fortune to watch their levels 5 and 6 teams practicing on the week of worlds. It showed us the true meaning of sweat and hard work! The following evening we had the chance to train and run routines alongside their Large Co-ed level 6 team! A unique opportunity that pushed ourselves and got us hyped up for the coming competition! These few training sessions were some of the most intense and memorable we have ever had, and relaxing on Miami beach or the pool one day gave us some much appreciated downtime to let tired muscles recover.

Friday was the day of ICU World Championships in Disney World Orlando, where some of us decided to watch some inspiring and high-class cheerleading, to get in the mood for our competition on Sunday. The rest of the team decided to relax and explore some of the surrounding theme parks and get in the Disney mood!

The Saturday was the first day of the USASF/IASF worlds competition. Fortunately we didn't have to compete just yet, and could enjoy the atmosphere of the competition and support the teams we had seen in training, and watch the best the world has to offer. We also got the chance to meet back with our friends from Brandon and Top Gun, along with meeting cheerleaders from all over the world (some of the team even bumped into another team from America called 'Aviator Allstars'!)

Sunday was the day of AV Raptors' first ever Worlds performance and we had to compete twice. Nerves were running high, and our first outing on the floor was not our best. However instead of getting down heartened, we psyched ourselves up for round 2! Our second run through was one of the best performances, if not THE best, raptors has ever performed and coming off the mat was an emotional and incredible feeling! We placed 14th in the world, an incredible feat the entire team could be proud of for a first time outing at worlds. The rest of the day was spent celebrating and gaining perspective on what we had just achieved.

The final two days, we had some downtime to visit other theme parks, or make some last minute shopping trips before having to head back to the UK and normality. This gave us a well earned chance to relax with our fellow team mates, who had been our family for the past fortnight.

This type of trip forges lifelong friendships and it was truly a trip none of us will ever forget! The knowledge gained by the athletes who had the chance to go, will be taken back to Leeds and passed on to the rest of the team and Aviator Allstars program, and help drive everyone for next season! WE BELIEVE...

Devin Reilly, Aviator Allstars F22 Raptor Athlete.

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