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Teen Travels To Cheer In The New Year
The pepperoni is hotter, the weather is colder ... but it was a wonderful experience.

That, according to Escalon High senior Lue Saechao, who had the chance to travel to London, England as part of the United Spirit Association cheerleading troupe to perform in the New Year's Day Parade in London.

The 18-year-old was tapped as an All-American Cheerleader while attending a camp with her Escalon spirit squad this past summer, and was offered the opportunity to travel and perform abroad over the New Year's holiday.

Saechao traveled overseas with foster parents Jim and Peggy Jones and met up with several California cheerleaders that were also taking part in the experience.

She got ready for the performance by practicing at home, using a video of the cheer routine.

"I had to learn the routine but it was only a minute and 19 seconds, not too long," she explained. "We (basketball cheerleaders) usually do like three minutes and it was a pretty easy routine."

Saechao is a varsity basketball cheerleader for Escalon High and has been involved in cheering for the past five years.

"I like routines, I like working out," she said, "and flying (stunt work) is pretty fun."

She was glad her involvement with cheering paved the way to the overseas trip. Along with members of the United Spirit Association, there were also representatives from United Cheer Association and United Dance Association, making up a contingent of 400-plus American performers.

"It was a long ride," she admitted of the 13-hour flight to London from San Francisco.

She listened to music and tried to sleep a bit, then had the chance to tour many London locales before taking part in the New Year's Day performance. The group was able to attend the theater, enjoying a performance of Legally Blonde along with touring St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, observe the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and more.

"I liked the Windsor Castle, that was my favorite," she said.

As far as London itself in late December and early January, Saechao found it to be a little cold. The parade time temperature was only in the 30s.

"The food was a little different," she added. "Their pizza, the pepperoni is really strong and they took forever to serve you at a restaurant. We're used to doing things different, everything is fast ... they move slow."

Once arriving in London, Saechao had the chance to meet up with the other cheerleaders in the group and they had an opportunity to practice the routine before stepping on to the parade route. They did the routine about 10 times along the more than two-mile route, she noted, and performed to the music 'Chillin.'

"The parade also included bands from several high schools from the United States and all the boroughs of London, each represented by their mayors and included collection of money from the spectators during the parade," added dad Jim Jones. "All money was donated to various charities as selected by each borough."

Welcoming in the New Year overseas with her family, Saechao said they enjoyed watching fireworks set off from The Eye, the world's largest Ferris wheel.

Several California cheerleaders, including some from nearby cities such as Riverbank and Stockton, also made the trip so Saechao has made some new friends. Band majors, dancers and cheerleaders all took part.

"The people there like American cheerleaders," Saechao said, smiling, adding that they were treated almost as if they were celebrities.

"It felt like it," she agreed. "They had cameras and I was smiling the whole time, I couldn't stop smiling."

After graduating from Escalon High, Saechao anticipates first attending Modesto Junior College and then moving on to a four-year school, with an eye toward a career either in nursing or working with children.

And out of a possible 10, her overseas adventure rated an '8' on her scale, with points deducted only for the long trip, trying to adjust to the time difference and the occasional rainy weather.

"I'm glad I got to do it," she said.