The North Bend Eagle


Americans bring cheer to "cheerio" to London

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 1/14/15

What did you do over Christmas vacation? When teens are comparing trips to their relatives or skiing in Colorado, NBC junior Courtney O’Connell can say she spent six days in London.

Yes, London, England.
O’Connell participated in a parade as part of the All-American Cheer Team with the United Cheer Association Varsity. She attended a cheer camp in Omaha last June with her fellow cheer and dance team members from North Bend Central where she tried out for the All-American Cheer Team.

London tripCourtney O'Connell, second from left, poses with the other Nebraskans on the trip to England.

“It wasn’t hard at all,” O’Connell said. “All you had to do was a cheer, a dance that we had learned and your best jump.”

O’Connell found out that day that she was selected for the England trip.
But then she had to raise $3,500 to pay for the trip. O’Connell did fund raisers with the help of cheer team sponsor Sandy Vrana. She also worked at the North Bend Golf Course to earn money. In the end, with a little help from her parents, she was able to raise the money. Other than getting her passport, UCA made all the arrangements for the trip.

O’Connell received a DVD with the dance routine and learned it on her own. There was one practice in London before the actual parade.

There were 1,165 people, teens, UCA sponsors and parents or chaperones who made the trip. There were three groups of cheerleaders, each with a different song to perform in the parade. Each group had a different color of uniform. The three groups did the same activities but with different schedules. It included free time, eating times, a cruise on the Thames River, an evening at the theater seeing Wicked, trips to see Windsor Castle, Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and a lot of old buildings and modern ones that were awe inspiring, O’Connell said.

They went to places in coaches and walked a lot. The weather was in the 30s to 40s, so it wasn’t too different from home. One of O’Connell’s favorite places was the London Eye, a huge ferris wheel near Big Ben.

“It took a half hour to make a full rotation,” O’Connell said.

On January 1, the students (there were boys and girls cheerleaders) got on a coach at 9 a.m., left the hotel at 9:15, stopped for a group photo in front of Windsor Castle before arriving at the parade assembly site. The three groups were scattered in the parade. Each did their dance routine ten times during the parade in front of stands of people. The tenth time was televised. O’Connell’s mother, Tania Dohrman, said she got up early to see the televised parade, and it paid off as she saw Courtney twice.

Dohrman said she was not worried about Courtney’s safety as she had called and asked questions and talked to other moms whose daughters had gone previously. And Dohrman knew there were experienced chaperones on the trip who kept parents well informed via the Internet.

The people were very nice everywhere they went.

“England doesn’t have cheerleaders,” O’Connell said. “They were like, in awe of us. They were taking pictures of us even when we were eating.”

O’Connell’s roommate was Lauren Andres from Gothenberg. They were connected through a mutual friend, Faith Rickerson. The two Nebraskans had not met until they got to London.

They did get to do a little shopping. O’Connell said they went to the three-story Victoria’s Secret, Oxford Square and Piccadilly Circus. She didn’t do much shopping for herself, but brought little trinkets for her family and friends.

Her favorite part of the whole trip was the sightseeing and meeting new people. There were cheerleaders from all over the United States in her group. Each of the three groups were divided in to smaller groups for sightseeing and eating times.

“Just going to a different country as a junior in high school, that’s pretty awesome,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said she was not homesick until the very end of the trip when it looked like their flight from Minneapolis to Kansas City was canceled and they would have to wait until the next day to get home. Eventually, the airline got a larger airplane for an earlier flight and all could fit in it. They left London at 12:50 p.m., had an eight-hour flight to arrive in Minneapolis at 4:04 p.m. and finally got the Kansas City at 6:45 p.m. glad to be home.

O’Connell has kept up with her new friends through texting and Instagram, and she has two scrapbooks filled with her photos and mementoes to keep the memory forever..

“I was glad I decided to go because it was once in a life time experience,” she said.

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