EAST COUNTY — Out-of-Door Academy senior Colleen McGrath could have welcomed the new year from the comforts of her home or while out with her friends.
Instead, the 18-year-old cheerleader helped lead the world in celebration.
McGrath was one of 500 cheerleaders across the United States to perform in the London New Year’s Day Parade with a group from the Universal Cheerleaders Association.
“I just thought it’s my senior year, and it would be a great experience,” said McGrath, who qualified to perform in the parade after being selected as an All American cheerleader by the UCA last summer.
McGrath began preparing for the parade in early December after receiving a video of the cheer routine she was to perform in the parade. She began committing the movements to memory, and about a week before leaving for England began practicing more intensely — a few hours each day.
McGrath and her family — sister Shannon McGrath and her mother, ODA cheerleading coach Kathleen Abrams, and her husband, Jim Abrams — arrived in England Dec. 27.
UCA provided cheerleaders and their families with scheduled tours of sites such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, among others, as well as opportunities to explore the city on their own.
The cheerleaders met only once to practice the routine together before the parade, although McGrath practiced in her hotel room several times.
“I thought I would just being doing the dance I learned,” McGrath said. “Instead, I got picked to do stunting with some of the co-ed guys (and had to learn a new routine). It was really fun.”
On New Year’s Eve, McGrath and her family welcomed the new year on the streets of London along with the thousands gathered there to watch fireworks and celebrate with friends. Snow started falling at the stroke of midnight, adding to the excitement.
And around 9:30 a.m. the next morning, McGrath headed to the parade line, where she and the other cheerleaders waited about three hours in roughly 30-degree weather before making their debut in front of spectators along the two-mile parade route.
McGrath said she was nervous at first, but after stopping a few times to perform, the excitement of the day simply took control.
“When you perform in front of people you are pumped with energy,” she said. “The ending (of the parade) was the most fun. It ended on one of London’s main roads, where they had news cameras and the most people (were gathered). That was the last time we performed.”
And at the end of the parade, McGrath and the other cheerleaders donated the red gloves they’d worn in their performance to a children’s home in London.
Although McGrath said she enjoyed many of her excursions she took during her weeklong stay in London, the parade itself was her most memorable and favorite experience.
“I loved being in the parade,” she said. “It was exciting.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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