The Pinelands Regional High School Varsity Cheerleaders are headed for their eighth UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships, to be held Saturday and Sunday in Orlando, Fla.
For the past five years their performance has been televised by ESPN, and for the last three years they have placed third in their division, said Coach Marybeth Sundermann, of Manahawkin in Stafford Township.
Sundermann, 45, is feeling incredible pressure to win this year, while coping with chemotherapy treatments for an autoimmune disorder called Sjogren’s Disease, the same disease that caused tennis star Venus Williams to drop out of August’s U.S. Open.
“I love it. It’s my passion. I’m not a sit-at-home, stay-in-bed kind of person,” she said of her decision to keep coaching and competing. “We lost first place by .7 last year. We have eight seniors coming back with a lot to prove.”
The girls are five-time state champions, and train year-round. They get up at 6:30 a.m. in the summer to practice tumbling and stunts. Parents such as Jen Martin, of Little Egg Harbor Township, whose daughter Taylor is a senior on the squad, are key to its success, Sundermann said. Martin organizes parents to handle other details, so Sundermann can focus on coaching.
Sundermann cheered at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. The former teacher is now a lead school health specialist for AtlantiCare Health Systems. She is married to Pinelands Athletic Director Will Sundermann, and they have two sons, Caden, 12; and Kieran, 10.
After reading about Atlantic City businesswoman Rita Mack’s gift of 100 tickets to help Atlantic City High School students see the movie “Red Tails,” a retired teacher has decided to do the same for 100 seventh and eighth grade students at the Egg Harbor City Community School.
Her anonymous gift of $720 will make it possible for them to attend a private showing Feb. 13 at the Regal Theater in Mays Landing, said Principal Jack Griffith. “Red Tails” tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black squadron of distinguished World War II fighter pilots.
“She’d read the story in The Press of Atlantic City, and told me that after reading it she thought, ‘I can do that,’” Griffith said. “Within a few hours she was in my office with a check for $720. Our donor made it happen immediately, and we are incredibly grateful.”