Going to St. John’s for the Newfoundland and Labrador Cheerleading Athletics Championships has become a tradition for the Exploits Valley High Eagles cheerleading squad, and over the past four years, the team has made quite a name for themselves.
This year was no different.
Last weekend the 37-girl team crushed the competition to take gold in two categories; the full-team competition as well as the dance squad competition. Last year, the full-team took silver in their category, and this year the dance squad defended their title, taking gold for the second year in a row.
And according to head coach Kim Siese, they couldn’t be happier. The squad only started about four years ago, and has been steadily improving their routine each year.
“We train twice a week, all year long,” said Siese. “They’ve worked hard for this since October.”
Siese said all throughout the year, the girls give it their all in training, and put many hours into fundraising to be able to pay for the trip. She also said the four other coaches worked tirelessly all year towards making sure the girls gave their best performance at the championships.
Earlier this year, the dance squad, which is a smaller subgroup of the most talented dancers on the team, went to Halifax and placed fourth against university-level squads from across Canada.
With that valuable experience under their belt and the improvements they made on their routine, Siese said their portion of the competition was a blow-out.
“You compete twice at these competitions, after the first round they post standings to show you where you stand, and then there’s another competition,” said Siese. She said in the large group competition, the scores were a lot closer, but with the dance squad, there was no question over who was going to win.
“Put it this way: the other teams knew their name wouldn’t get called for gold,” she said.
Siese said in the full-team completion they were scored in categories, and last year the gymnastics portion of the routine is where they fell short.
“This year we had the highest gymnastics scores, which blew us away,” said Siese, whose love for gymnastics got her involved with coaching cheerleading. “It’s what we worked on all year and it worked.”
Siese described the routine of the full squad as a combination of stunts, gymnastics, dance and jumps.
“You’re literally throwing girls in the air and catching them,” she said.
And while it may seem difficult to get such a level of co-ordination in a bunch of teenaged girls, Siese said the close nature of the team makes it easier for them.
“Even though they’re all different ages, we’ve even got members from (junior high) on our team, they’re like one big family,” she said. “They’re a great bunch of kids.”
Seise said the team has been attending the competition for four years now, and they have developed a fun routine that has made the trip a yearly highlight for the team.
“We go out there Saturday morning and meet at the Avalon mall and the girls shop till they drop,” she said.
The real work begins on Sunday morning, which is competition day.
“It’s literally like an assembly line where we do the girls hair and makeup in 10 minute slots,” said Siese. “We’ve got it down to a science. Every one of the 37 cheerleaders’ hair is done identically, and I can honestly say when we walk in our team looks the most professional.”
This year the team got a special treat when they found out they would be getting a one-on-one with one of the judges that has been described as a ‘gymnastics guru.’
According to Siese, Brian Payne has 38-years experience in gymnastics and is well known nationally for his work.
“That was quite an experience for them, he was fabulous,” she said.
Siese said it’s not easy to get such a large group to St. John’s and required an immense amount of fundraising from selling tickets and cookie dough to wake-a-thons. This year Siese organized the Miss and Little Miss Grand Falls-Windsor pageants to raise money for the squad, which brought in $1,400 to go towards the trip.
But, she said, all that is worth it, and something she plans to continue doing each year with her team.
“To come this far is an accomplishment.”