FORT WAYNE – For the third straight year, and eighth time overall since 2000, the Bishop Dwenger Saints came home a national champion last weekend.
The team involved was the varsity cheerleading squad, the title was National Grand Champions, and, no, blasé was not the emotion of the day, three-peat or not.
“Someone asked me the other day, ‘Does it ever get old?’ and I said, ‘You know, it never gets old,’ ” Dwenger coach Amy Gonzagowski said Tuesday, two days after her team posted the highest score of any team at the Contest of Champions Nationals in Orlando, Fla., where 104 teams from all over the country competed.
“It’s such a great group of kids,” Gonzagowski said. “We had a big dry spell there in the 2000s, but the last couple of years we’ve been fortunate to have great performances and good kids.”
And if it truly doesn’t get old, it’s because one of the opponents – adversity – was so new this year.
One of Gonzagowski’s seniors missed nearly the entire season after tearing her ACL in October. And another of her cheerleaders missed eight weeks with a double whammy -- Lyme disease and a particularly nasty form of mononucleosis.
“We really had to rebuild her strength, because you’ve got 2 1/2 minutes on the mat to do as much as you can do as well as you can, and you have to do it full force,” Gonzagowski said. “So this group had to face the most challenges by far of anybody.”
The team consisted of seniors Bri Campbell, Paige Didier, Nicole Gulachek, Erin Grutsch, Lindsey Noye, Morgan Pearson, Becca Paladino, Claire Schenkel, Rachel Venderley, and Alex Yoder; juniors Emily Budzon, Elizabeth Budzon, Lauren Didier, Haley Enrietto, Mariah Tippmann, Allison White; and sophomores Alexis Eddy, Dominique Effinger, Maggie Houlihan, Graisen Proctor, Lucy Schenkel and Emily Tippmann.
The other coaches are Vicki Kuker and Doris Derheimer.