Township Pop Warner Midgets Win First National Title


Members of the Franklin Township Pop Warner Midget cheerleaders on stage after winning the program’s first national championship. Photos: Towanda May-Butts.

After more than 40 years of competition, Franklin Township finally has a Pop Warner national championship team.

But it’s not who you might think it is.

The Franklin Township Pop Warner Midget Cheerleaders were crowned best in the nation in their division on Dec. 8 at the Pop Warner Cheer & Dance Championships held at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.

The victory marks the first time a township Pop Warner team has won a national title, although several football squads have been in the running in prior years.

That makes it all the more sweeter for Pop Warner cheer director Toward May-Butts.

“It’s nice being first,” she said.

The squad is comprised of 18 girls aged 12 to 14 years, May-Butts said.

The road to nationals began with the Central Jersey championships, then on to the regional championships, May-Butts said. She said observers at the Central Jersey championships told her and the coaches that the squad had a good chance to win in the nationals.

The 2 1/2-minute routine comprised of cheer and dance was created by coach Mawiyah Hollimon and assistant coach Fatima Braxton, with help from others in the organization, May-Butts said.

Teams were scored on choreography, execution, jumps and tumbling, May-Butts said,

She said the atmosphere in the center was more supportive than adversarial.

“It was very exciting,” she said. “The camaraderie of all the girls there. There was a lot of wishing everyone good luck.”

“No one felt any ill will toward anyone on the other teams,” she said.

In all, more than 169 cheerleading teams from throughout the country – plus Pop Warner football teams nationwide – converged on Walt Disney World for the championships and the Pop Warner Super Bowl.

May-Butts said one hurdle the girls had to overcome during the season was not having a set practice site. They split their practices between Franklin Middle School and South Brunswick’s Stellar All Star complex.

“This squad overcame a lot this season,” she said. “They were just very hungry for this title. We told them how good they were, and they believed it, and they came together as a unit and went on to be national champions. It was just beautiful.”

May-Butts also credited the squad’s business manager, Arlin Dukes, for the team’s success.

“She’s the one that made sure everything was all right,” May-Butts said.

While their season is over, the girls have performed at a Franklin High School boys’ varsity basketball game, and were told they will be getting a commendation from the Township Council, May-Butts said.

And then there’s next year …

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