Believe In Yourself

November 8, 2007
By Liliana McCaffrey, Slingerlands, NY

I put my iPod away and stood up. The folding chair snapped closed on my bag. My legs were tense, like I had just woken up. My heart pounded in my stomach. I had been watching teams compete for the past 2 hours. I had seen amazing teams, and I had seen bad teams. What I was afraid of was that we were going to be one of those teams. We had come a long way from the Pepsi Arena, and we weren’t going back. But first place there wasn’t the same here. When we went down to get stretched and to warm up, my heart was pounding harder, only now it was in my throat. We were in New Jersey.

* * * * * * *

We were underground, waiting for the teams. My mom had been passing out gushers so we stayed pumped. The sour raspberry exploded in my mouth and danced onto my tongue. There was a team in front of us, and we played a hand game with them. Then we had to stop because they were going on. Now my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my mouth. The dance routine ended, and the announcer waited for the crowd to stop cheering. Then, suddenly (or sooner then I wanted), he said, “In Peewee Intermediate Large (our division), Guilderland Dutchmen”!!!!!!! You could hear our fans (mostly our parents), scream their heads off. They had signs and cowbells, blow horns and megaphones. I thought I was going to throw up and my legs felt like jelly, but I went anyway. When I saw a section of parents and fans dressed in head-to-toe red, black, and white, I could feel the smile spread across my face. I looked over at my coach, who was over at the other side of the floor, and she gave me a small nod. Then she started the music.

The next two minutes and 30 seconds of my life felt like forever.

We were at the halfway point in our routine when I glanced at my coach. She was getting all teary. I felt like crying myself. We finished the routine without any tears, but lots of cheering (from the parents, and us). My coach waited impatiently as the man in charge of music ejected the CD from the player and handed it to her. She had tears streaming down her face as she ran straight across the floor, and it was mixing with her mascara, but at that point I don’t think she cared. She wrapped us up into a big bear hug. One of the security guards said something to us, but everyone was smooshing me, so I couldn’t hear anything. Apparently we had to move, so we moved in a big clump. I got pushed so much, I fell. We slowly made our way back up into the cold, hard bleachers. Most of us were shaking, not in a clump anymore, but in groups of 2’s and 3’s here and there. When I reached my seat, there was a sparkly silver bag on my chair. I opened it and found something wrapped in red tissue paper. I ripped it open, and inside a clear container, was a cheer bear. They had been selling them, and they had our colors on this uniform made especially for them. And matching pom-poms. (I never knew why they had them, we didn’t use them.) There was a tag that said “Para me cielo. Buena suerte. Te quiero, Mami. For my sky, good luck, I love you, Mommy. I hugged my bear and waited for the announcer to start awards.

* * * * * * *

My fingernails dug into my palms. The announcer read off the 2nd runner up… (nope) 1st runner up… (what is going on?)…Champion…wasn’t us. My stomach dropped and I hung my head. I knew that it wasn’t that we didn’t WANT to go to Florida, most all of the teams do, it’s that we weren’t ready to go. I think that this year will be different because we have learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses, not everyone is good at everything, but everyone is good at something.

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