Casa Grande High School senior Amanda Irwin couldn't make it to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl parade this year. She had a prior commitment to perform in the massive New Year's Day Parade in London.
Irwin earned the right to march in the parade, along with hundreds of other high school cheerleaders from all over the United States by earning All-American Cheerleader honors at a cheerleader camp hosted by the Universal Cheerleaders Association at the University of California at Davis. She was one of five Casa Grande cheerleaders to earn All-American honors at the camp, joining teammates Alyssa Ratto, Kayla Lawson, Kendall Silva and Tasia Coulter on the honored list. Irwin chose to make the London trip, and it turned into a journey to long remember.
"It was amazing," she said. "It was so historic and beautiful. It was just breathtaking. I can't wait to go back."
And, she does plan to go back. "There were so many things I didn't get to see. I would love to go back on my own."
The entire experience lasted a whirlwind eight days, but, as Irwin pointed out, there was a day's travel both going and coming home, and, since the girls were there for the parade, there was practice and then the actual parade.
The parade route of 2.2 miles was much shorter than the 5.5-mile Rose Bowl Parade, but certainly covers a more historic route, taking participants along Piccadilly Street to Piccadilly Circus, then to Lower Regent Street, Waterloo Place, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, ending in front of Big Ben at Parliament Square.
The hundreds of girls from the U.S. were broken into smaller groups to tour the city. For Irwin, it wasn't so much a situation of making new friends as it was of putting faces to friends she had already met on Facebook.
"When we met, we already knew about one another because of Facebook," the Casa student said.
Irwin said wherever the girls went, they were treated like celebrities. "It was pretty surreal," she said. "It was like all the cheerleaders from America were famous."
For Irwin, the trip, while exciting, was just one of the highlights of a four-year career as a Casa Grande High School cheerleader.
"Cheerleading pretty much runs my life," she acknowledged. "I can't express how much I love it. All my free time is pretty much filled with cheer."
She hopes to continue cheerleading in college — at Oregon State if she has her choice, but those plans may have to be put on hold for awhile. She is a finalist for a position on the UCA staff and might have a chance to travel teaching high school students the sport she so loves.
"I'm so stoked that I have a chance to be on the UCA staff," said. "I try out on March 24. I'm almost there."
If Irwin does join the UCA staff, she will continue her education at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Irwin has been cheerleading since she was in the eighth grade, starting as a Petaluma Panther in youth football.
Her coach at Casa Grande, Trina Foakes, says the senior has the talent and drive to perform on the next level, whether it be at college or as a UCA staff member.