Mallory Loughman, 19, Tamaqua class of 2010, and Brianna Oswald, 18, Lehighton class of 2011, who are members of the Misericordia cheerleading team, recently traveled to Orlando, Fla. to compete at the (UCA) National Championship for college chear teams.

The championship is held each year for college cheer and dance teams to attend. Hundreds of teams attend the event each year to compete in their respective divisions.

The team began working in October on the nationals routine, which consists of 2.5 minutes of cheer, tumbling, stunting and dancing.

Head coach Tara Sinclair stated, "The team endured long hours of practice four nights a week, while also managing a full-time academic schedule, cheering for the schools basketball teams and participating in community service events." She added, "All there hard work led to the best finish ever for the Misericordia cheer program."

The team competed in the Division II All-Girl Category and advanced with the top half of the team placing fifth in the semi-finals, earning one of the nine spots in the final competition. Sinclair, the team's 10-year head coach, said, "While other teams fell below us, and other teams moved up in ranking during the finals, the team gave another outstanding performance earning a fifth place finish in the finals."

The team's best finish prior to this year's nationals was in 2008 when the Cougars were nationally ranked at number eight in the District 2 All-Girls Division.

Loughman, daughter of Chris and Gail Loughman, is a sophomore member of the team, studying pre-physical therapy.

Oswald, daughter of Danny and Tammy Serfass and Dan and Nora Oswald, is a freshman member of the team.

Sinclair stressed, "The MU cheerleaders work hard inside the classroom too. The coaching staff demands the athletes maintain their focus on academics. The team's overall GPA is a 3.4 and Mallory and Brianna certainly do their part in the classroom. Brianna holds a 3.4 in Misericordia's demanding Speech and Language Pathology program, while Mallory, a member of the Sports Management program, earned a 3.58 in the fall semester."

The nationally ranked Cougars are not done yet. Currently the team is holding their annual charity event "Cougars for a Cure" today during a home basketball game. Both Mallory and Brianna, along with teammates, are working to sell T-shirts and plan the charity event to raise money for the St. Jude Children's Research hospital. The annual event has raised over $5,000 dollars for St. Jude's in the last three years and the team hopes to raise another $1,500 at this years event.