Excited shrieks echoed through Lambert High School’s gymnasium as Coach Brent Paige stood in front of his 19 cheerleaders, reading aloud a letter he had received months prior.
“In addition to the opportunity of performing with over 500 cheerleaders in our televised performance, we would like to offer your cheerleaders a featured section in the routine to highlight their skills,” the letter said. “We are excited that your team will be joining us in New York City! We look forward to seeing you in November!”
On Thursday, Paige broke the news to Lambert’s varsity competition cheering team that they were selected to perform in the 2017 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with hundreds of other cheerleaders throughout the country.
Though he, along with the girls’ parents, had known for several months the team was selected, the announcement was made to the students on June 15.
“At the end of last season, I sent in two videos of our competition routine from the past two years at state to a company that chooses and selects different cheerleading squads for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Paige said. “Lo and behold, I got an email and a letter back about a month later that said we had been selected.
“The girls had no idea up until [Thursday]. I had kept it really quiet within the community, but the parents had known about it just because we had to get an approval that they were on board to send their daughters off during the week of Thanksgiving to do this performance.”
In addition to walking in the parade with other cheerleaders, the Lambert girls were chosen to perform a spotlight routine, Paige said.
“When they go to do the performance, there will actually be a choreographed routine of our girls in a selected performance for the parade,” he said. “They fly out there the week before Thanksgiving, and Macy’s hires their own choreographers and they’ll learn the routine that week.
“They’ll be in rehearsals for about eight hours every day, and then they will actually perform the routine on Thanksgiving Day.”
This year’s varsity cheering team is comprised of 19 girls: two freshmen, five sophomores, nine juniors and three seniors.
Twins Sammie and Dani Spera and senior Emma Menichino said they were thrilled with the opportunity to perform, especially as a way to wrap up their final high school season.
“It gives a reward at the very end of the season — like we’re not done yet,” said Dani Spera. “Usually after state is over in November, that’s it —you have to get ready for tryouts or move on to your other teams that you’re on.
“Now, when we get back from the state [competition], we’re going to go to New York together, and it’s just going to be a whole other trip that’s going to be really fun.”
Menichino said the performance will be bittersweet.
“It’s exciting, but it’s also sad,” she said. “We’ve been cheering together a lot longer than high school, and it’s just kind of the end for all of us.
“But I honestly think that if we have a successful season that we want to have, topping it off with that will be really awesome.”