The county’s smallest cheerleaders are making a big splash after winning an international competition Jan. 28.

The Diamonds cheerleaders were named national champions in the level two youth tradition recreation level and grand national champions of the entire recreation level during JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals Jan. 27 and 28.

“The girls are really excited,” Coach Heather Ford said. “This has been a spectacular start for this team.”

The team was formed last August. Their first competition was in Cincinnati, Ohio, and they won first place there. That’s when they decided to compete in a JAMfest event, which tends to be bigger than other competitions, Ford said.

JAMfest Cheer Super Nationals is the world’s largest cheerleading competition held in Indianapolis. More than 700 teams compete from all over the world.

The girls had been practicing their two-minute routine since November.

The girls were the highest scoring recreational team at the competition and were named grand champions over five different divisions. They were also the youngest group in the whole division to win grand champion, Ford said.

“The girls were just absolutely ecstatic. For us to go and win, and not just to win, but to win a grand champion title, it was a really big deal for them because they worked really, really hard,” Ford said.

Ford describes the team as the underdog because they are a recreational team and have to pay for all of their trips and supplies.

“You’ll be competing against other teams that have hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into a facility,” she said.

“We just don’t have those means or resources. … They practice on a hardwood floor with panel mats, whereas other people have $20,000 spring boards to practice on.”

Girls on the team range in ages from 5 to 12. The majority are between the ages of 8 and 12. Fourteen of the 16 cheerleaders live in Brown County.

The team practices twice a week at the Brown County YMCA. The tumbling and cheer program is open to any child whose parents fill out a registration form A skills evaluation is required for the competition team.

“It’s not necessarily a tryout, it’s just so we make sure each candidate for the team is able to do what we need to do for the routines safely,” Ford said.

There is also an exhibition cheerleading team that has no skills requirement. “It’s more of a foundation to help get you ready if you do want to go on to competition,” Ford said.

Girls can join and quit at any time. The team had two girls join the team three weeks before the JAMfest competition.

“It’s just grown and grown. It’s been lovely,” Ford said.

“We always say we’re a family, we’re not just a team, so the girls, they call each other ‘cheer sisters.’”

Because of how they scored in JAMfest, the team was invited to participate in the United States finals. The team could choose from among five competitions and they chose a May 5 and 6 competition in Virginia.

“We’ll be competing probably against 30 to 40 other rec teams — several teams in our division, which will be wonderful, but a little overwhelming,” Ford said.

To get there, the team has to raise $5,000. A GoFundMe page will be created and local fundraisers will be stages.

The team will have a bake sale and perform during halftime of the Brown County High School varsity basketball game Saturday, Feb. 17. All Brown County children through Grade 12 will get free admission to the JV and varsity games.

Ford said those who wish to donate to their trip to Virginia can do so by messaging their Brown Co. Cheer & Tumbling Facebook page. Updates on fundraising events and the GoFundMe page will also be posted there.

“We’re a 100 percent a fundraising and sponsorship-run program, which is fantastic. Our parents get together and they organize those events. We’ve done car washes and bake sales,” Ford said. “You name it, these girls have worked for every bit of it. It’s been fabulous.”

The team will next compete in the Cheer Derby Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky on March 3.

“We got a lot of really great feedback on our score sheet, so we’re actually going to be increasing our difficulty a little bit,” Ford said.

She said the team’s main strength is stunts. “We are pretty far ahead of the game whenever it comes to stunting and tumbling,” she said.

“They’ve done a fantastic job.”

About the Diamonds cheer squad

The Diamonds cheer squad members are: Adelin Grider, Mattie Whitis, Chloe Sawyer, Ellie Patrick, Lilly Pittman, Lydia Harrison, Adrianna Watkins, Brookleigh Watkins, Maddilynn Browning, Rossi Edds, Lola England, Brooke Anderson, Kielynn Roberts, Kyla Lacefield, Gracie McMasters and Mercy McMasters.

To help the team get to Virginia in May, send a message to their Facebook page, Brown Co. Cheer & Tumbling. Information about upcoming fundraisers and a GoFundMe page will be posted there, too.

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Suzannah Couch grew up in Brown County, reading the Brown County Democrat. A 2013 Franklin College graduate, she covers business, cops/courts, education and arts/entertainment.