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Cheerleader returns from London
Kayla Steele won't forget how she spent her Christmas vacation. The 16-year-old Ceres High School junior was one of 60 American cheerleaders prancing around in the shadow of Big Ben in London, England for the celebrated 23rd annual New Year's Day London Parade.

Steele was chose to perform with the USA Varsity All Star Cheerleaders, sponsored by the Texas based organization, the United Spirit Association.

Kayla, a CHS varsity cheerleader, auditioned in July at Cal Stanislaus State University in Turlock. Area varsity cheerleaders in Cheer Camp were encouraged to apply. Approximately 100 girls tried out but only 15 were selected to join the 60-member team.

Another local girl who participated was from Hughson.

London was predictably cold and overcast but Kayla enjoyed the two-hour, 2.2 mile parade route through the heart of London. The parade started when Big Ben clock tower struck noon. The team moved down the route - including Parliament Square, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and Piccadilly - wearing a Navy blue uniform that included an old fashioned style skirt and sweater with a red star in the middle of the chest.

"It was actually a lot of fun seeing these people who were so excited to see us, especially kids who liked seeing American cheerleaders," said Kayla.

Back at home her mom, Lori Cook of Ceres, was able to catch a video of the parade on the internet on Sky TV.

She flew to London the day after Christmas with two family friends. Because she had a DVD of the routine to practice, Kayla was only needed for a quick 90-minute practice session, leaving the rest of the time to see England.

"We pretty much winged it on parade day."

Kayla and her chaperones felt fortunate to tour Windsor Castle, typically closed at this time of year.

"It's just so weird seeing all the antiques that have been around since the 12th century," she said. "It was amazing to see all the sights and the history. It was outstanding. I'd love to go back."

Kayla returned on Jan. 2.