Empire Cheer Team, front row, left to right: Sabryn Rockwell, Grace Sullivan, Faith Bishop, Aubrey Lackey, Jenna Tuttle and Aleah Thomas. Second row: Emma Easton, Gracie Easton, Nataley Olson, Lydia Fincham, Madison Adams and Casey Michael. Back row: Coach Amy Norcross, Jaidallyn Andrews, Selena Garcia, Lexi Yost, Katelynn Hess, Ella Thompson, Coach Mandi Michael, Coach Snail (Samantha) Migliaccio and Olivia Sullivan.
by Jamie Harris
When it comes to youth sports around Morgan County a lot of programs such as the Wolves football, Morgan County Little League baseball and youth wrestling always get attention for their accolades. These programs will now need to move over and make room for the Empire Cheer Program.
The Morgan County based Warm Springs Wolves Empire Cheer program captured the U.S. National Championship with a flawless performance on Sunday, May 6 in Virginia Beach.
WSW Empire is a Level 3 Performance Recreation competitive cheer squad that is branched off of the Warm Springs Wolves Football and Cheer program. It was created by Mandi Michael, Amy Norcross and “Coach Snail” Samantha Migliaccio.
The three ladies joined forces three years ago when Michael took over as the head cheer coach for the Warm Springs Wolves Football and Cheer program.
They were a group of girls who had minimal talent, but enough heart and dedication to take on the world.
As the seasons passed some of the girls ventured onto other activities or joined school programs. However the competitive desire never faded for some. Parents and girls alike bonded over values, common practices and the coaching styles.
From there the topic of “What’s next” came up more and more. After many meetings and some hesitations Empire was born.
Girls had tryouts and were welcomed onto the team by a personal invitation with balloons door to door. After that the work began.
The members of the program started both football and Empire cheer practices several days a week. With the help of First United Methodist Church who rented the “Blue” so Empire could have a temporary gym. At the Blue the foundation was laid and the quest for a national championship began.
Football season came to an end and competition season was soon under way. Travel, conditioning and practice went into over drive for the girls of Empire. Countless hours was spent by the athletes, coaches and parents in helping Empire prepare for their ultimate journey.
After changes to their routines, parent uncertainties and even an Honorable Mention the team started to find their groove and there was no turning back. Empire made the trip to Ocean City, Md. to compete on the national level and earned a National Champion runner-up finish. Next, Empire earned a first place qualifier to compete at the prestigious U.S. Finals. Empire received a highly sought after Gold Bid to the U.S. Finals that was valued over $3,000 for earning the highest score of their competition season.
With a U.S. Nationals bid locked up Empire went back to work by adding more practices, changing routines again and moving into a new Empire gym that is located in Berkeley Springs.
The team started to band together for the last competition of the season. Then on the weekend of May 6 family and friends ventured to Virginia Beach to support Empire at the biggest competition of the season.
From there the formula of 18 girls, 2.5 minutes, 150 seconds and one chance to win it all took place. When the competition ended there was no doubt who was the best team in the event. It was the squad from Morgan County with the name of Empire who was awarded the first place gold at the 2018 U.S. Finals and earned the distinction of being National Champions. A perfect end to the first season for Empire Cheer the “National Champions.”