Palmetto Cheer Elite squads headed to nationals

  • Palmetto Cheer Elite’s senior squad, pictured above with coaches Amy Williams and Julie Stapleton, racked up several awards at the Jan. 21 Spirit Solutions Liberty Classic, including being named 2016-2017 Level 2 Grand Champions and earning a gold bid to the U.S. Finals in April.

Palmetto Cheer Elite’s three squads have had a successful season so far, earning bids to two national championships.

Squads from the Barnwell-based competitive cheerleading program recently qualified for two national championships held under the U.S. All Star Federation. The squads include 47 girls between the ages of 4 and 18.

At the Jan. 21 Spirit Solutions Liberty Classic in Fayetteville, N.C., the senior squad of 13 girls from Palmetto Cheer Elite won first place for Senior Level 2 and were named Level 2 Grand Champions. They also received a fully paid gold bid to the U.S. Finals in Pensacola, Fla. on April 8.

This is a high honor because the judges did not have to award a fully paid bid. However, they did so “because they think we have what it takes,” said Amy Williams. She and her best friend Julie Stapleton are the owners and coaches of Palmetto Cheer Elite.

Williams said the senior squad has come a long way since Palmetto Cheer Elite started six years ago.

“This team really struggled in the beginning years,” said Williams of experiencing losses and a lack of motivation.

“They came in thinking they could do nothing,” said Stapleton.

However, the girls stuck together, worked hard by practicing three to four times a week and came together as a squad. One of the girls even overcame bone cancer and a year off before coming back this season.

“They learned you have to be best as a team and not as individuals. That’s when you see the best,” said Williams.

“The growth has been absolutely tremendous and phenomenal,” said Stapleton of seeing all the girls in the program get better. Many started with no cheerleading experience.

Competitive cheerleading not only promotes healthy living through physical hardcore activity, but the girls also learn important life and personal skills, such as self-confidence and time management, according to the coaches.

Palmetto Cheer Elite also provides another positive outlet for youth that wasn’t available when Stapleton and Williams were growing up in Barnwell. That’s why the 1997 Barnwell High School graduates and former cheerleaders decided to start the program six years ago.

“The biggest blessing is being able to make an impact on the girls’ lives,” said Williams, who is also the varsity cheerleading coach at her alma mater.

They are now seeing the older girls motivating the younger ones to do their best. Williams said they also have tremendous parental involvement.

Stapleton and Williams are also proud of all three squads – youth (formerly mini), junior and senior – for earning bids to THE ONE Cheer and Dance Finals in Orlando, Fla. May 6 after competing Feb. 11 in Charlotte, N.C. The youth and junior squads each placed third on Feb. 11 while the senior squad placed first. The squads have also placed in other competitions this season.

“It’s definitely been an amazing season,” said Williams. “Each and every one of them work hard.”

The squads still have two more competitions of the regular season before gearing up for the championships. They travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. this Saturday, Feb. 18 and will also compete in Myrtle Beach on March 11.

Palmetto Cheer Elite’s gym is located on Highway 70 in Barnwell. In addition to competitive cheerleading, they offer birthday parties, private tumbling and private cheer techniques.

To learn more about Palmetto Cheer Elite, check out their Facebook page, email or call Julie Stapleton at (803) 645-7825 or Amy Williams at (803) 300-3287.