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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
The JOY Supernovas, Montgomery County Special Olympics Cheerleading’s elite-level team, is part of the U.S. National Team that will travel to Orlando April 23-27 to compete in the International Cheer Union World Cheerleading Championships.
Cheerleaders with and without disabilities from around the world will compete in the prestigious event held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
“We are so honored that the JOY Supernovas will join the U.S. National Team to compete in the Special Olympics Division,” said Coach Roni Septoff of Brookeville. “Our team worked so hard to get to this level of competition.”
This is the first time that Special Olympics athletes have been invited to participate in the competition.
Septoff said they were chosen to represent the U.S. National Team after submitting a video.
Seventeen athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities, ranging in age from 13 to 30, make up the JOY Supernovas. The team contains one young man.
Septoff said the team has been together for about 10 years, with participants coming and going. Three of the participants live in the Olney/Brookeville area.
“I’ve worked with most of these athletes since they were little and seen the growth in their skills and ability,” she said. “This competition is meant to be for them. I can’t wait for the world to see what they can do.”
Septoff said she got involved when she raised her hand to volunteer 10 years ago.
“I can’t tell you the joy you get by giving to others and the joy I get from serving these athletes and their families,” she said. “They are just amazing.”
The opportunity also brings “JOY” to the cheerleaders.
Michael Pfeifer, 20, of Olney, said he likes being on stage and cheering with his friends.
“When I’m standing under the lights, I feel like a superstar,” he said.
Pfeifer is excited to compete in Florida.
“It’s amazing to represent the United States,” he said. “I get to be like Michael Phelps.”
Rachel Williams, 27, of Brookeville, said her favorite part of being on JOY Supernovas is learning new things like jumps, along with tumbling and dancing.
“I like that I feel I’m part of a family with all the cheerleaders,” she said. “I feel confident that we can do anything we put our minds to. We can get the gold medal if we do the cheer really loud and well. Also, I’m excited to be able to meet new teams.”
The JOY Supernovas condition and practice year-round to prepare for competitions against both Special Olympics and Special Abilities cheer teams.
They won the gold medal in the elite division (highest in the cheer program) at the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago last summer and took second place at the Maryland Madness All-Star competition in February.
The JOY Supernovas also regularly perform at community events.
In addition to being one of Montgomery County’s Special Olympics teams, the Supernovas are affiliated with and have had the long-time support of Shockwave All-Stars Cheer Gym in Rockville.
The team is responsible for funding their trip to Orlando. Septoff said they need funding for uniforms, competition fees, airfare, lodging and meals to make the trip a reality.
“With our group, we have to have a parent for each child, so it adds up,” she said. “We need about $12,000 and have raised $8,500 already. Every little bit helps.”
To learn more or to donate, go to http://somdmont.ipower.com/store/index.html.
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