On any normal, at-home football game this fall, Washougal High School cheerleader Alexis McConville can be seen at Fishback Stadium, standing on top of a cheer box, pom-poms in hand, cheering the Panthers to victory.
This Thanksgiving, however, McConville will break away from her normal routine and perform alongside some of the best youth cheerleaders in the nation at one of the world’s biggest and most popular live entertainment venues.
McConville, a Washougal High School sophomore, will participate at the 2023 Orlando Thanksgiving Tourat Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 21-24.
“The parade is a big deal,” McConville said. “I’m one of the select few that actually get this opportunity to fly out to Florida, go to Disney World — where I’ve never been — and get to meet all kinds of new people from all over the United States and cheer in a parade with them. I am mainly excited to just meet all the people and see everything. And obviously, I get to cheer in a parade, which is pretty awesome. I (hope to) learn some new things from other cheerleaders that are there.”
More than 800 elementary, middle school and high school cheerleaders and dancers from across the U.S. were chosen as All-Americans during Varsity Spirit summer camps across the country this past summer, selected via tryout based on either superior cheerleading or dance skills, according to a news release issued by Varsity Spirit, a Memphis, Tennessee-based cheerleading company.
“Only the top 15% of the cheerleaders and dancers from Varsity Spirit camps earn the chance to march in a holiday parade of this caliber,” the news release states.
McConville was named as an All-American after performing during a Varsity Spirit American Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) camp, held in mid-July at the University of Portland.
“You go out in front of the camp and do your best jump, one generic chant, and the camp dance, and all of the UCA staff members are sitting on the stage with score sheets,” McConville said. “The chant and the dance were automatically chosen, but for my jump, I went based off of what the coaches actually said was the best looking. We evaluated all of my jumps beforehand, which was a pain in the butt.”
McConville said that she was “terrified” about trying out for All-American status.
“There were at least 50 other people (that tried out),” she said. “My coach had told me early in the morning I was going to be trying out, so I was nervous all day long. But as soon as I got on the mat, it all kind of just went away. Everyone was really supportive. No one’s really judgmental at these camps, so as soon as I got on the mat, I was like, ‘OK, this isn’t bad. I’m fine.’ (Once I was done), I was just glad it was over with. I was hoping I would make it. I was like, ‘I feel like I did pretty good,’ but I didn’t really have an idea of if I actually did make it or not (until I was told).”
McConville views her All-America status as validation for the effort that she has put into becoming the best cheerleader she can be.
“I feel like I’ve just worked so insanely hard, and my coaches have worked hard to make sure that I am doing the best to my ability, so I feel like this is just really proving that the hard work is doing something,” she said. “I’m not just doing everything and there’s not any progress. This is definitely proving that there has been a lot of progress. And honestly, I’m just really proud of myself for even trying out.”
Despite her young age, McConville has extensive cheerleading experience.
“My mom started putting me in all the cheer camps when I was 3, so I have been cheering since I was young,” she said, adding that being a part of a cheerleading team is “a huge bonding experience.”
“We always say, ‘We’re like sisters,’ and people don’t really believe it, but honestly, cheer has built bonds that are almost like these girls are my sisters,” McConville said.
That’s why she hopes to continue to cheer “as long as humanly possible.”
“I absolutely love it,” McConville said. “I can’t imagine not cheering right now. I want to stick with cheer as long as I can.”