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She flies through the air ...

Steubenville Big Red grad Danielle DiCarlo is a two-time All-American at Fairmont State

June 23, 2013
Weirton Daily Times

FAIRMONT - Danielle DiCarlo is a flyer.

Not a Dayton Flyer, but, a flyer for the Fairmont State acrobatics and tumbling team.

She is also a two-time All-American.

Article Photos

Danielle DiCarlo

The 2011 Steubenville Big Red graduate was selected an All-American for the second year in a row by the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association.

"I surely didn't expect it as a freshman, but to be called a second time, I was really amazed," she said. "The all-Americans are called at a national banquet. To be picked by the board members of the NCATA was pretty cool. I was not expecting it.

"Next year I want to make my tumbling even better."

Fairmont State is one of 10 teams nationally that offers the sport. The Fighting Falcons lost to Oregon in the NCATA semifinals in April in Hamden, Conn.

DiCarlo started dancing at age 5 at Missy's Dance Studio in Wintersville.

She started competitive cheering three years later, moved on to a higher level of competitive cheer in the eighth-grade throughout her senior year at Big Red, with Basics in Wellsburg under Brian Faulkiner.

"I decided to try out competitive cheer to see if I would like it and I ended up falling in love with it," said DiCarlo.

She also cheered at Buena Vista, for the Mingo Chiefs and at Harding Middle School. DiCarlo was on the football cheer squad and the competitive cheer squad at Big Red.

During the summer between her junior and senior year is when Basics closed and she was asked by Faulkiner if she wanted to drive to Charleston for more tutelage at the Famous Superstars gym.

At Basics, when she went to the higher level in eighth-grade, DiCarlo was part of a squad that placed third in the worlds in the small all-girl division, which was held at Walt Disney's Wide World of Sports.

"I owe everything to him because he made me the athlete I am today," said DiCarlo. "Myself and a few others decided to drive the three hours to do competitive cheer. It took a lot of time and dedication. It was something I loved. I figured it would be worth it, and it was.

"Brian taught me to be humble and never underestimate myself, but that I could always be better.

"My mom knew that if it was Brian, then it would be worth it, My dad said that if I was going to make the commitment, then I was going to stick it out and they both were behind me 100 percent.

"I missed my senior prom to go to the cheerleader worlds and it was worth missing prom, to go against different athletes. It was a really good experience."

DiCarlo made the decision that, after high school, she was worn out from being a competitive cheerleader, but "wanted something a little different."

Fairmont State won the national title in 2010 in competitive cheer. One of DiCarlo's friends on the national title team told her they were transforming the competitive cheer team into a new sport.

"She told me because she knew I wanted something different and that I should try it out," DiCarlo said.

DiCarlo, who had only applied to Marshall, WVU and Fairmont State, contacted coach Kristi Kiefer and went on a visit.

"She wanted me to try out right then," DiCarlo said with a laugh. "Luckily, I brought some clothes just in case. She offered me a scholarship on the spot.

"I took a couple of days to think about it. I was ready for a change and for something new. But, them holding a national title in competitive cheer made my decision easier.

"I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I have come to love the sport. I love everything about it. I could not imagine my life in college without it."

As for the major?

"I wanted to be a special ed teacher because I love the kids and everything about it," she said. "But, I realized it wasn't for me. So, I tried fashion. That lasted a semester. I talked to my coach and she said to try some classes and see what I liked. I ended up really liking health and decided I want to further my education after getting my bachelor's.

"I was one of those who went to college for a sport and then decided that maybe I should think about what I should do after college. I love my major now. It is something I look forward to when I go to class."

After a rough first semester as a freshman, much like what all freshman go through in college, DiCarlo, who is now majoring in health science with a minor in nutrition, has bounced back with two straight 4.0 semesters, and a 3.75 for a 3.62 GPA.

"Now that I have good grades, I do not want to let them go," she said.

Acrobatics and tumbling is broken down into six categories - compulsory, acro, pyramid, toss, tumbling and team routine. There are multiple heats within each category.

"It brings all different aspects of competitive cheer, but brings it into sports," she said. "There is no cheerleading involved, just gymnastics and stunts. This was my decision. I decided I wanted something different. I was not ready to give it up yet, but I was ready to give up the cheering part.

"I really like it because it's competition, but in a different kind of format.

"I get thrown in the air and I tumble. It's a lot of work and it's a lot of wear and tear on your body. But, it's definitely been worth it."

The meets last over two hours with a halftime. The team routine at the end is 2 1/2 minutes in length.

"It's a lot of work," DiCarlo said. "We have conditioning Monday, Wednesday and Friday for an hour with the strength and conditioning coach. We work out two hours a day for six days. Plus, I work a job, and I am a fulltime student.

"This has taught me a lot about time management, which I had no idea what that was when I started college. None at all. But, now, I couldn't imagine not being an athlete in college. I would not know what to do with my time."

This year DiCarlo was in compulsory acro, compulsory tumbling, compulsory toss, six-element stunt, two pyramid heats, two tumbling heats, two basket heats and the team routine - 11 events.

"It is intense, but it's so worth it," she said. "It makes me want to become better.

"With 10 teams nationally next year, and one of them being Hawaii-Pacific, it has been so cool to watch the sport grow. I feel it's going to be huge. It's really competitive and you feel like an athlete."

Through all of this, has been mom and dad.

"I can't thank my parents enough for pushing me to go forward with this," DiCarlo said. "They love watching all their kids compete in sports. They have supported me through everything. They taught me to never give up. If life knocks you down seven times, you get back up eight. When life throws you curve balls, there is always a way to dodge them.

"My mom and dad were the ones to say that I should try acrobatics and tumbling and, thank God I did. I love it. They are at every one of my meets.

"As long as they are there, it's awesome. They tell me how proud they are of me, and it doesn't get any better than that."

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