Peyton Thorsby, 8, was full of adrenaline when she arrived for her team’s 6 a.m. call time at the Showcase of Champions Cheerleading Competition in Tampa, Fla. on Dec. 4. Things changed, however, when she discovered she was the only present member from her team’s division.
“The other girls didn’t show up for one reason or another,” her mom Nichole Thorsby tells Yahoo Life of her daughter’s five-member team, one of whom, she recalls, was sick while another “showed up too late” and was unable to sign in. While other team members did show up, they were on different levels of the squad (which has four levels in total), and therefore unable to compete alongside Peyton, a first-year cheerleader for the Pasco County youth cheer and football program called K-Tech Krakens.
“We tried to reach out and no one's answering,” Nichole recalls of attempting to reach the teammates’ parents. Meanwhile, Peyton's two coaches — Coach Leah and Coach Nikki — were forced to come up with a new game plan.
“The coaches told her, ‘The other teammates aren't here, what would you like to do?’ And she said, ‘I don't think I can do it,’” says Nichole. At that point, the team was faced with the possibility of forfeiting from the competition, though her routine had taken “weeks and weeks” of practice to perfect.
That simply wasn’t an option for Peyton. “A light switch went off right there,” says her mom. “That’s when Peyton said, ‘No, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna be brave, I’m going out there for my team.’”
Peyton tells Yahoo Life that, backstage before the performance, “I was so nervous at first, in my head, and my body was very shaky. I was thinking, do I really want to do this? And once the music started, it all went away.”
She wound up giving a solo performance — including a "totally winged" section — that charmed the judges, the crowd and her family: Nichole, her dad and two brothers, ages 7 and 10, all of whom were there to cheer her on.
Ultimately, the star beat out two other squads for first place.
“It was like butterflies were tickling my body and my belly,” Peyton recalls of landing her final move in the routine, which ended in the splits. “I just wanted to make my team proud.”
Nichole adds, “All she could say was, ‘Mommy, I can't believe I did it. I can't believe I did it! I did it mommy! That’s really all she kept saying because she was just in shock. She was so proud of herself. It was a stellar routine.”
Though the competition happened in December, news of Peyton’s courage only recently became the talk of the town, when multiple local outlets reported her team’s victory. News soon reached her school’s principal, who gave her a special shout-out on Monday.
“At school today, my principal saw the news and he put it on the speaker in my classroom,” says Peyton, who credits her Christian faith and her belief that "Jesus is right there" for her courage. “All my friends stood and clapped for me, and I was very happy.”
As a mom, Nichole says she tries to “instill positivity” in her children every day. Peyton’s bravery at the competition, she adds, reminded her how important it is for other parents to “give their children confidence,” even during uncertain times.
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