Teesside graduate crowned World Cheerleading Champion with team after starting at university

Lewis Pennicott holding the World Cheerleading Championships trophy
-Credit: (Image: Teesside University)

Teesside University graduate and Stockton dad Lewis Pennicott has been crowned a World Cheerleading Champion.

Lewis, along with his team Unity Allstars Black, journeyed to Orlando, Florida to compete against 500 teams and 11,000 athletes at the World Cheerleading Championships. The Unity Allstars triumphed in three categories, including the International Open Coed Non Tumbling Level 7 division, making 33-year-old Lewis a part of the only UK programme to clinch victory at this international competition.

Lewis, hailing from Stockton, said: "It still doesn't feel real to say I'm a world champion it's just incredible. Only 31 teams were declared world champions, and being a part of that history is something I'll cherish forever."

"We competed twice with the top teams from each country. In the finals, we 'hit zero', meaning we had no deductions from the judges. You can't beat that feeling. It's been a decade-long journey, starting from my first cheerleading experience in the Olympia building at Teesside University to the World Championships with one of the best teams globally."

He further added: "It's certainly been a journey. Unity Allstars are based in South London, so there's been a lot of travel involved to get to training each week. I've travelled over 31,000 miles since September, which is more than once around the entire globe."

Husband and wife duo Lewis and Laura Pennicott
Husband and wife duo Lewis and Laura Pennicott -Credit:Teesside University

Lewis found his love for cheerleading when he joined the Teesside Wildcats, the cheerleading squad at Teesside University, while studying Product Design and playing American Football. His then-girlfriend, now wife, Laura Pennicott, who was chairing the Wildcats at the time, encouraged him to join.

Lewis said: "I started attending the training sessions. It looked like fun, so I got involved and started participating. Eventually, I began competing with them at their competitions. Starting cheerleading at university definitely sparked a hunger and desire to push myself and try higher level cheerleading."

After graduating from Teesside University, Lewis and Laura, who are parents to two children, established their own cheerleading team in the North East. The pair took Evolution Athletics to the World Championships in 2023, which Lewis described as a significant personal accomplishment for both of them.

The Unity Allstars Black team
The Unity Allstars Black team -Credit:Teesside University

"Winning at the World Championships the year after we took Evolution Athletics was made even better having Laura and our two children out there to watch as well. Core memories were made for sure," Lewis stated.

"You can't do any better than being a world champion, so I feel like I'm finishing on the highest possible note. We might go back and watch, but, for now, I'm hanging up my cheer shoes and enjoying my work as Marketing Director at Cleveland Group."

The World Cheerleading Championships took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Walt Disney World Resort between 26-29 April 2024.