The 2020 National Cheerleaders Association's (NCA) All-Star Nationals had a huge "Wow" factor before it began. We knew it would be the biggest cheerleading competition ever as it was announced early that there would be six venues to hold 30,105 spectators, 25,322 athletes and 3,000 coaches.
Ten teams broke the 99% scoring barrier (see below) after Day 1, but it was Day 2 that really brought the exclamation points:
-Cheer Extreme Allstars' Senior Elite won its division, ending its seven previous attempts that earned second place.
-Many gyms earned NCA jackets for the first time. Although no final count was available when CheerMAD contacted Justin Carrier, the vice president of Varsity All Star said "it was a great weekend."
But the biggest WOW!!! and certainly most talked about event this year was when a four-year old gym, Reign Elite Cheer Allstar from Bakersfield, California, at its second NCA appearance ever, earned a score of 99.9 on Day 2 in its Div. 2 gym, Small, Senior 2 category.
It's two-day total score of 99.8167 was the highest earned by all 1,418 teams at the oldest, most prestigious in-season event of the year with all the stress and nervous energy that goes with it.
That was after an athlete quit the week before and a non-tumbler came in to replace the tumbler. Creating a new routine and changing stunt groups necessitated that the team practice every day before car loads of athletes and parents of the lower-financial demographic gym drove more than 21 hours to Dallas, some arriving at midnight the day of check-in. And after coaches reviewed the Day 1 video called a full-out practice at 4 a.m.
Then during Day 2 competitions, one of the crossover athletes from Jr. 2 was injured performing with that team.
While everyone hopes for the best routine a team can give, no one expected the 13-member team Royalty would make history.
Not the team's parents, gym owner or its coaches.
Lisa Ramos' four children all cheer at Reign Elite Cheer Allstar; two of which are on the 99.9 scoring team: Analisa, 15 and Tommy, 12. Gilbert, 11 is on Jr. 1 Prep and Sophia, 6, is a Tiny.
"All us parents tried to be positive but if I’m totally honest, we thought it was a long shot to even win," Lisa said.
"We are a small gym, and it's like family, we all look after each other," she continued.
"We parents keep them close, build them up and do things like eat dinners (at comps) together that enable (the team) to bond better. But we definitely didn’t think we were getting the score we received," Lisa added.
There were many factors that contributed to that feeling.
"The week going into NCA was very stressful. They struggled with the stunts and we didn't know what they were going to look like," said gym owner Melissa Simonek.
"I wasn't sure that they would pull it off. They were nervous, there were a few glitches at warm-ups and backstage they were crying," she said.
"But when they went onto the floor, when they performed, it was the coaches who were crying. It was an
Coach Joshua A. Dowler shares the 99.9 scoresheet with his mom/gym owner Melissa Simonek.
According to Melissa, the highest score earned at NCA was all about the score sheet.
"That's how a Level 2 team scores higher than a Level 5, it's kind of basic," she said. "Who do we compete against? The score sheet. Everybody out there is there to do their very best job. We are out to hit the score sheet. That is our goal. That’s what we did."
"There are drivers that they have to hit, and with every driver you hit, the score goes up." Melissa continued. "Our coaches are very good at knowing what needs to be in the routine.
As former members of the infamous 2011-14 California Allstars' Senior Small Coed Level 5 SMOED, Head Coach Joshua Dowler and Coach Beau Rodriguez certainly know a thing or two.
They won their first NCA jackets together and the four that followed as athletes. This weekend they won their first jackets together as coaches. (Photo: Beau, left and Josh, right on SMOED).
Josh, who is Melissa's son, may be more familiar to some as Joshua Andrew, a two-time Worlds champion who was featured in the first season of "Cheerleaders," the series that debuted on Jan. 20, 2013 and which continues today. SMOED was to the cheer world what Netflix's docuseries CHEER is today and he credits that cheerlebrity experience as training ground for what is happening now.
"By being on that high-caliber of a team, under a microscope, I learned how to deal with pressure which is something our kids who are new to bigger events need to master," Josh said. "And as a cheerleader at this caliber, they're already learning how to deal with some situations."
Josh was referring to the social media scuttlebutt of opinions surrounding the worthiness of a Level 2 receiving the highest score ever earned at NCA. Despite earning NCA's highest score of 99.8167, only Levels six and higher are eligible for the honor of Grand Champions, which went to Brandon All-Stars Senior Black Level 6 Senior Small Coed with a score of 99.5583,
"I really do believe, great cheerleading doesn’t have a level," Josh said. "You can be great at whatever level you are. Regardless of the level, it’s hard to be great at any level.
Josh says there are a few people on his team who don't tumble but are stars in his eyes because they are so passionate about the sport.
"I think for me, the main thing is, passion can take you far in this sport," he said. "I'm a firm believer in that there is a difference between performing and making judges feel something."
But Josh is most proud of his kids' versatility.
"We make it work with what we have, under any circumstance. We certainly showed that this week," he said.
"If somebody gets replaced, we may or may not have someone to replace them with so they jump into a stunt and base, even though they may have never based. They just make it work."
"It's a lesson for life," Josh continued. "In my eyes they had already won, just the fight to get here and try to be successful with everything they’d been through. I always tell them there are always going to be situations that are not perfect. You make it work, or you let it defeat you. You have to make the choice. And that's life in general -make it work."
Enjoy these photos of the history making Reign Elite Cheer Allstar's Sm. Sr. 2 Dynasty provided by gym owner Melissa Simonek: