The accolades keep piling up for the A.L. Brown cheerleaders as they finished in the top 10 in two categories at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship last week in Orlando, Florida.

After taking home the school’s first state title in Raleigh in December, the Wonders traveled to nationals for the second time in two years last week and took home sixth place in the gameday competition and 10th place{sup}th{/sup} in traditional in the medium coed category (up to 25 people, four to seven boys).

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Pictured are (in no particular order): Anthony Almazan, Melvin Alarcon, Maggie Pittmon, Queen Johnson, Jakira Gaither, Calvin Laliemtharixay, Justin Giraldo, Juan Jacquez, Koda Lemelin, Nadia Dixon, Niya Kerr, Riley Zimmerman, Chloe Johnson, Cayla Artis, Mahayley Hauss, Anjelina Knight, Kemari Sims, Emma Boswell, Lilly Beaver, Morgan Tilley, Tanner Adams, Ruby Rios Ramirez, Isabella Iaulluci and Rexi Lemelin.

Coach Brittney Speights was especially proud of their game-day competition, which is a collection of routines including a band dance, a cheer, a situational sideline for either an offensive or defensive cheer, and another to the school fight song.

“I think they did incredible,” Speights said. “We have to take them to Memorial Stadium, like, they don’t know who the Wonders are, they don’t know what this ‘K’ means, and I think we’re very unique and special because, No. 1, our school name is A.L. Brown High School, but our logo’s a ‘K,’ and we’re the Wonders; like, there’s no other Wonders, so I think we’re just so unique, and I told them that they need to capitalize on that because they’re going to be very interested.”

The Wonders made their first trip to nationals last year and admittedly were more or less just going there to have fun. They didn’t make the semifinals on either of the two nights of competition and did their best to learn what they could.

But last week they were going there to show themselves and everyone else how much they had improved, and they made the finals in both routines. And by just about every estimation, they made a statement about who they are.

“‘What is a Wonder?’ and we get that a lot; people ask us all the time, ‘What is a Wonder?’ and the kids, it’s amazing to see, they’ll tell people, ‘It’s a state of mind,’ you know, it’s not a person, or an animal or a mascot or something, they’re like, ‘It’s a state of mind,’” Speights said. “I just think that’s so clever, and I think we all think that in this community, but for high schoolers to say that to people they don’t know, I think it’s powerful.”

The A.L. Brown cheerleaders could be described as powerful themselves this year. They won every competition they competed in this season up to nationals and that comes after second- and third-place finishes at state each of the last two years.

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This was the Wonders' second trip to nationals.

And while this talented squad is graduating eight seniors, they still have a very talented group of sophomores and expect to be competitive once again next year. But the loss of the seniors will be felt greatly throughout the program. They have been with Speights since she started as the cheerleading coach and the school decided to go to more of a UCA model. They helped build the program and will leave it in great shape.

“These kids that are with me now started this,” Speights said. “They truly, they started from the bottom, and they’ve seen the change because they were here one year that I wasn’t, and then I came in, and so they’ve just seen it grow and I’m just so happy for them because they’ve seen their efforts and their fruits of success.”

These seniors were part of a group that finished second at state in its first time competing. They will leave a lasting impact on their program. They laid a foundation to build on and moving forward, the younger athletes have a pretty high bar to clear.

But with their success at state and nationals, they also now know what it will take to get better, and they have an idea of what they can do to possibly win a national title in the future whether that be next year, in two years or even five or 10.

“We had a perfect routine (at nationals), a solid routine, but our kids are young and we’re young to this, so we have got to get out there and find the best teachers and find the best methods and safest methods to increase our difficulty,” Speights said. “And it’s all about progressions; I’m not going to ask a kid to do a skill that’s way higher than what they can safely do.

“And that’s what I tell them: It may take us a couple years to get that difficulty, but I think it’s all about the technique, it’s all about the training and the repetition of what we’re doing, the tumbling, so next season we’re just going to try to find out who’s out there that can help us even more.”

One other thing Speights couldn’t help but speak about was how much support the community and the school district have shown them in their success.

Kannapolis City Schools has been very supportive of the team and encouraging as it continues to grow, and Speights could not be more thankful.

“That’s something I really want to make clear and get out as much as possible is I am so appreciative of the support that we receive,” she said. “It is so rare to receive such support from our superintendent and our administration.

“I feel like if I could just shout it, I mean, I would, because when I won Coach of the Year this summer, they were there and my athletic director was there, my principal was there, my superintendent was there, and it was so rare. But my point in that is, three years ago, they wanted to revamp this program and they wanted to take it towards more of a UCA style (of) cheerleading, and they wanted us to kind of follow the UCA model, and that’s hard; change is hard for anybody, but they were so supportive.”

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The Universal Cheerleaders Association National High School Cheerleading Championship will air on ESPN in the coming weeks.

The competition was filmed by ESPN and will air in the coming weeks. The date is not set yet, but the teams should know when it will air in the next week or so.