McKeesport, PA –    Rain Athletics located in the suburb of Pittsburgh, PA has quickly surged onto cheerleading’s world-wide radar this season.  The team sits on the cusp of history, having completed the regular season without a single deduction. That’s right! The team has performed hundreds of individual stunts, pyramid skills, jumps, along with thousands of tumbling skills over the course of the 2017-2018 season; each time evading what often is the inevitable, a deduction.  How did they do it?

We visited with the team, speaking with a four-year team veteran and senior Kara Rupchak and co-owner/coach Caleigh Epolito to find out how this season came to be.

Deductions; an inevitable part of modern day cheerleading.  The expectations of the scoresheet, coupled with the constant drive to outdo what previously has been proved to be possible, and deductions have become synonymous with the sport.  In speaking with four-year team veteran Kara Rupchak, she explains that one of the biggest driving force behind their so far perfect season has been, “a super high standard for ones self, aggressively approaching skills in practice the same way that we intend to compete the skills.”  Rupchak explained that having been a part of the team for four seasons prior, that this year is different. The team is different because, “as a fifth year program and team, we have more seasoned athletes, more athletes with experience at The World Championship” she adds, “it’s been easier to get the team to put in the work, because they know what it takes to be where we want to be.”

Prior to this publication, the team has yet to make an appearance in the final round of the elimination style competition.  Each year, finishing in the mid-twenties of the semi-final round. Their best finish would of been a ninth place in 2017, and advancing to finals last year; however, that was cut short by a building fall, and under-rotated double twisting full in the semi-final round.

Co-Owner and team coach, Caleigh Epolito credits the program’s driving factor to seasons past.  Since the program’s start in 2014, they have always had a worlds team. Epolito talking about years prior adds “we decided we were going to have a worlds team, and then figured out how to make it happen.”

Epolito discussed the challenges that we as an industry face, of having athletes “buy in” to the mentality that we can be winners, that teams are capable of achieving what coaches are telling them in the gym.  Athlete’s across this sport seek validation for their hard work, Caleigh adds, “Even though the team didn’t make finals last year – what we as coaches have been telling the team was possible was validated by scores that showed that minus deductions, the team would have finished ninth in semi-finals, and earned a spot in the top ten and final round of The World Championship.”

Epolito credits the quick ascension, and success to the following:

 Knowing your role, and strength as a coach.  

Epolito, who coaches the team with Jordan Thomas and program co-owner Jacob Parker adds that each coach’s strength or particular mindset coming into a practice has been integral to the success of the team.  “We’re constantly picking each other up, and focusing on our specialities. We rise to meet the teams need or focus. At this point in year five, it’s become unspoken and natural instinct.”

Athletes are capable of more than we think.

Epolito says, “We’ve been told all along the way that things are impossible, or won’t work out. We were told in our first season, that the team should be compete in the restricted five division. (we got a paid bid that same year).  We don’t accept anything at someone’s first perception or opinion, we just push past that.”

Development of self accountable athletes.

Epolito attributes a large part of the teams success to, “developing a trusting relationship with your athletes.  Getting them to a point where they are willing to push past their own limits every practice, loving each other and refusing to let each other down.”

In closing our visit with Epolito we inquired about the inevitable, the what if looms with just days to go until The 2018 Cheerleading World Championships.  She said “we’re not going into this event comfortable, we’re constantly on their toes. While nerves are relaxed, there is a bit of pressure to finish this journey. Knowing that we’re going to have that crowd support for the first time is exciting to see how uplifting, and amazing this industry can be.”


“We want to hit, we want to make finals, and at that point – I tell the girls to imagine that morning, putting your bow in the day of finals and saying “WE MADE IT”.  If we can get to that point – anything else after that is the sprinkles on the cake.”

Five minutes worth of routines separates the team from their goals, and the industry from witnessing history. The world will be watching as Rain Athletics Aqua seeks to put the impossible into existence. Will the team meet their personal goals of a perfect, zero deduction season? Will the industry see perfection at the highest level be achieved? We will soon see this year at The 2018 World Championships held in Disney’s Walt Disney World Resort, April 28-30, 2018.