Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online


June 26, 2013

Leaps & Bounds

Lockport woman turns bitter disappointment into universal success



In between her time with Sub Zero and college, Maria competed on the Buffalo Envy all-star cheerleading squad, under the direction of siblings Julie and Katie Willis. Their combined cheerleading coaching careers total almost three decades and they are both experienced choreographers, as well as a private instructors in stunting and tumbling.
“Kate and Julie Willis were with me at Sub Zero and I followed them to the Buffalo Envy. They’re one of the biggest reasons for my success in cheerleading today,” Maria said.
Competitive youth cheerleading squads feature about 20 girls performing two-and-a-half minute routines set to music that include stunts, flips, pyramids and other tumbling routines. A 10-panel judge scores each team based on a 10-point system. Some coed youth teams can feature as many as 36 members.
“Maria was an amazing, driven girl. She was always here, always showed up and was willing to work hard to achieve whatever it was she wanted to achieve,” Julie Willis said.
“She started with us when she was about 10 years old. We knew that if she wanted it, she could go places and as she grew, once she got older, we knew that she would get there because of her drive and passion.”
After graduating from LHS, Maria chose Louisville — the number one cheerleading college in the nation with 42 national championships. The Cardinals feature three different cheerleading teams — large coed, small coed and an all-girls team.
“My first year, I didn’t make the team and that was tragic,” Maria said. “I ended up staying down in Louisville and I competed on an all-star team at a nearby gym. I already knew by then that whether I’d make the team or not, I wanted to stay down there because cheering in the south is a lot more of a big deal than it is in the north. Very rarely does a northern school win at nationals.”

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