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19-year-old Minot woman is a 'World Champ' cheerleader
CHAMP — Catherine Haley, 19, of Minot, won the World Championship in cheerleading at the ESPN Worlds competition in Orlando, FL in April, with her All-Star squad in Georgia, where Haley attends college.
MINOT — Catherine "Cat" Haley has been cheerleading for 13 years. Since she became a "World Champ" in April, she says it might just be the perfect ending to her challenging, but fun career.
Along with her Georgia All-Star team, The Stingrays, Haley took home the gold at the ESPN Worlds cheering competition in Orlando, FL, sponsored by the United States All-Star Federation.
It was her third time competing at the event, she says, but her first time winning first place at the Championship.
"I competed in the medium all-girl division with 29 other girls on my team," Haley said. "We competed against 22 other teams."
It's an experience she has been looking forward to her entire cheerleading career, Haley said.
"My team was undefeated all year and one of two teams at Worlds that can say that," she said. The Stingrays competed in nine competitions this year.
According to her mom, Sandy, Haley is the only girl from Maine who won this title at Worlds. Before this year, no one from New England had ever won it.
Sandy said, "this orange team has won more gold medals than any other team in the 10-year history. ... It's quite an impressive team."
"She was bound and determined and wasn't going to give up on her dream," Sandy said, of her daughter. "I think the message here is 'never give up.'"
"This experience has given me so much more than just a World Championship," Haley said, "and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity."
In 2009 and 2011, she was forced to sit out of the Championship due to a knee injury, she explained.
Haley, 19, from Minot, has been cheerleading since the first grade, she said. She enrolled in Poland Youth League cheerleading in 2001. For the next three years, she cheered with the Rockettes and the MiniCats.
Haley attends Kennesaw State University in Georgia, where she also coaches two All-Star teams, ages 8-12.
Although undecided in her career, she thinks she might go into entrepreneurship.
"I would love to own my own All-Star gym one day," Haley said. "That's my ultimate goal."
She began coaching at the Planet Cheer All-Star Gym in Lewiston in 2010, she says, and has been coaching ever since.
While her college team is extremely skilled, she said, she has no interest in cheerleading at the college level. "It's just a different a world than All-Star," she said.
Haley's cheerleading career began at a local recreation program in Mechanic Falls, after being influenced by her cousin to join, she said.
"I had tried some other sports at the time that weren't working out for me," Haley added, "and I decided to give it a try, and [wasn't] really sure what I was getting myself into."
Turns out, Haley loved cheerleading. In first grade, she was involved in sideline cheerleading, at basketball games and other events, but by second grade, it became more serious.
"I began competition cheerleading," Haley said. "In fourth grade, I started All-Star."
Haley began as an All-Star cheerleader at Planet Cheer, she says, where she really fell in love with the sport. Her position on the squad has always been "flier," Haley explained, which means she gets tossed in the air by other cheerleaders.
She was even recruited by Celebrity All-Star Cheer Gym in Massachusetts. In the 2007 season, Haley travelled back and forth between both gyms, putting Planet Cheer first.
This year, however, on The Stingrays, she was not a flier, partly because of injuries she has received. Haley has had four knee surgeries – her first was in ninth grade.
"I had an ACL replacement a meniscus repair," she said. Her following three surgeries were also for a torn ACL and meniscus.
"I was out for seven-and-a-half months," Haley said. "I thought I was going to be out for a month."
Yet, Haley didn't give up. In 2011, she attended a college prep clinic in Louisville, KY, where she hyper-extended her knee a second time while doing a tumbling pass with one of the college's best instructors.
"I kept going," she said. "That summer I spent a lot of time in the gym ... but I didn't do enough conditioning." She explained that when doing a flip during practice one day, she didn't make it all the way around and hyper-extended her knee.
"She thought she'd never be able to cheer again," Sandy said, of her daughter. "She said, 'this is my life.'"
According to Haley, she spends at least 25-30 hours per week practicing with her team and coaching her own teams. She says it's almost like a full-time job.
The Stingrays practice six hours a week, but it doesn't include the time she practices on her own, Haley said.
Haley has won numerous top tumbler and top jumper awards, but according to her cheering stats, the most coveted was the title of America's top cheerleader in 2007.
Though she will miss competing, this is her last year on the squad. "I am unsure what the future holds," Haley said. Because of her injuries, she has become more cautious over the years.
"I am thinking that ending on this high note might be a safe plan for me."
After college, she plans on continuing her career as a coach.
"I am so amazed at how fast the kids and this industry has grown," Haley said. "I spent 13 long years involved and can't see myself leaving any time soon."