Each year since 1997, the Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championships has taken place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, during the first full week of December. The Pop Warner Football Championships, which is referred to as the Pop Warner Super Bowl, consists of 72 teams from eight Pop Warner Regions playing in three age and weight classifications as well as three age-based classifications. There are also two playing divisions in the age-weight classification, Division I and Division II.
To advance to the Pop Warner Super Bowl, a team must win its respective league championship as well as the regional championship. Each advancing team is guaranteed to play two games at the Super Bowl, with a national champion being crowned in each age-weight division and competition level. This year, led by head coach Jahmal Kelly and his staff, Temecula’s 10U Fighting Kodiaks went undefeated through the regular season and post season, claiming the Wescon Region 10U Division 1 Championship with a 37-19 win over Arizona’s Pop Warner State Champions. That win qualified them for the Pop Warner National Championships in Orlando, Florida, from Dec. 7-14, where they fell to the Woodbridge North Broncos and the Westside Wildcats.
The Cheer and Dance Championships featured over 500 cheer and dance teams who compete at a six-day long event. Competitions took place at the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex where two local Temecula Pop Warner teams competed.
Cheer and dance teams also compete in nine Youth Cheer and Dance Alliance divisions in five different age ranges – Mitey-Mite, Jr. Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Junior Varsity and Varsity. Show Cheer and Sideline Performance Cheer teams also compete in sizes – small teams: 5-10 cheerleaders, medium teams: 11-20 cheerleaders and large teams: 21-35 cheerleaders. The two local teams competed in the Junior Varsity Rank YCADA Level 2 Medium and the Junior Peewee Rank YCADA Level 1 Small.
The Junior Peewee team led by head coach Acacia Thede, competed out in Florida for the first time and placed 11th in their division. The junior varsity team, that is no stranger to this competition, walked away as National Champions for the third straight year.
“This year has been an exceptional year,” head coach Kristin Juve said. “Our team has been faced with many challenges and struggles from day one. That have had injuries, illnesses, last minute routine changes, new positions and life experiences that typical teenagers have. They have faced these challenges head on and rose to the occasion.”
Juve’s team has gone to nationals five years in a row taking fifth, second and now first over the last three years. During that run, the team has managed to keep five of the original members, while gaining lots of help along the way. Bree Padgett, Jenna Juve, Hunter Stackpole, Hunter Mikkelsen and Hailee Stoner represent the original members while Grace Barclay, Rylie Borge, Kaylie Cassinelli, Milan Colonna, Sammie Cox, Taylor Crawford, Presley Ford, Sam Lewchenko, Sybellan Loverbridge, Aya Sabado, Kristina Schubert, Amanda Teachenor, Emilia Toensing and Kaliana Tyquiengo joined over the years.
“They are all amazing overcomers,” Juve said. “The thing I am most proud of them for this season has been learning what is means to be a true teammate, because at the end of the day, that will carry them throughout life, beyond cheer, in a positive and impactful way. Our team motto this year is “Me not We” and they have applied every part of that motto.”
Juve’s coaching staff consists of Jackie Stoner, Holly Cox, Patricia Mikkelsen and Starr Stackpole. Next up for Juve and her team are the Jamz Nationals in Las Vegas at the end of January where they have won their division two years in a row and three of four years, taking second the other year.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.