Disabilities Almost Disappear On The Mat For Champion Cheerleading Team

By Karen Morfitt

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – A cheerleading company in Broomfield is giving those with special needs an opportunity to compete.

The Colorado Suns are one of only two special needs cheerleading teams in Colorado. Coach Michelle Kostelecky took them to Washington D.C. last month, where the team won a national championship.

“Our kids worked really hard to go out there and show them what we could do and I think they were super impressed with what they put out on the mat,” Kostelecky said.

Natalie Gutierrez (credit: CBS)

Natalie Gutierrez (credit: CBS)

The team is made up of 14 members with a range of disabilities.

Natalie Gutierrez’s daughter Kayla has down syndrome.

“I get nervous every time she goes out there,” Gutierrez said.

When she’s in the gym Kayla says her disability almost disappears. Others on the team say they feel the same.

Casey Beightol (credit: CBS)

Casey Beightol of the Colorado Suns (credit: CBS)

Casey Beightol has been competing with the Suns for 12 years. She says this year’s routine has been a challenge.

“It’s actually a little bit tough and I can handle it,” she told CBS4.

Suns assistant coach Sloan Lieker says overcoming the challenges for the cheerleaders has not only built confidence but strength.

“I honestly think that they teach me more than I teach them,” Lieker said.

Colorado Suns (credit: CBS)

Colorado Suns (credit: CBS)

If the team’s last performance is any indication, they’re now one of the toughest teams around. They beat out 11 others to become national champions.

“I push them past what they think they can do, what their parents think they can do, what society thinks they can do,” Kostelecky said.

The next obstacle will be raising enough money to get to Florida for another competition.

“I hope we can be the best … and hit a nice clean routine,” Beightol said.

On Sunday, the team performed at the All Star Competition at the National Western Complex. They hope to raise $30,000 for their trip to Florida to compete at the World Championship later this month.

Additional Resources

The Florida competition the Colorado Suns are shooting for takes place at Walt Disney World starting on April 23. You can help the team by donating money at gofundme.com/coloradosuns.

Karen Morfitt Joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around metro Denver. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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