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Competition cheerleading comes to Fillmore Central

Fri, Jan 17th, 2003
Posted in Features

Members of the Fillmore Central Competitive Cheerleading Squad go through one of their routines at a recent Fillmore Central basketaball game. The squad will be competing at the state competiton on February 1.

Cheerleading is a sport.

As simple as this statement may seem, a controversy about it rages in high school hallways and gym bleachers. Those who argue that it is a sport point out that cheerleading stunts and formations require skill, athleticism, and dedication, all of which are found in traditional sports. They fight for cheerleaders to be taken seriously as athletes. But their critics argue that it is not a sport, simply because cheerleaders do not compete against other teams. However, that argument is no longer valid for Fillmore Centrals newest squad.

Mary Beth Armstrong, Shawn Drury, Amanda Easley, Jamie Howe, Annie Schroeder, Cassie Scrabeck, Heidi Elinkowski, Ashley Iwanski, Whitney Bestor, and Kelsey Wilhelm comprise Fillmore Centrals first competition cheerleading squad, and are out to prove that cheerleading belongs in the same league as traditional sports.

Formed this year, the squad will compete throughout Minnesota against other squads. They head to Concordia College on Feb. 1 for State Competition, and will also compete in St. Cloud on Feb. 8.

The squad was started primarily through the perseverance of Easley and Howe. But according to its members, everyone has taken a leadership role at some time, pushing and encouraging, motivating and driving.

I have wanted to do this forever, Howe remembers. Or at least, ever since she saw competition cheerleading on television. Soon, she and her fellow cheerleaders were addicted.

But first, they had to deal with the logistical issues of registering a squad, and most importantly, we had to get everyone pumped up. This was extremely important because of the time, money, and dedication necessary to make a successful team.

The squad squeezes in 5 - 6 hours of practice time a week in early mornings, afternoons after school, late nights, and weekends. Many members of the competition squad are also key members on Fillmore Centrals regular cheerleading squads, and have double practices to attend. According to Howe, the members of the squad pay for everything themselves, and even bought their own uniforms.

Cassie Scrabeck recognizes one of the difficulties the squad

experienced: It can be really hard to have 10 girls agree on one thing. Its 10 personalities trying to mesh together. And sometimes, we cant even agree on what socks to wear.

But in performance, they are completely in sync, as the fans who have seen them perform would agree. They have performed for the public at Fillmore Central girls and boys basketball games, and at a FCLMC wrestling meet.

There, they showed off complex stunts, including The Scorpion, which is considered one of the most difficult stunts in cheerleading. The squad needed to learn increasingly difficult stunts in order to compete, which Howe says might have been the hardest part about starting the team.

But, she says they have improved 150% through the help of camps and clinics. Its such a cliche, Howe concedes, but if you have determination, you can do it.

It seems that, perhaps, a good cheerleading squad is quite similar to a successful football team. Each skillfully execute stunts or plays and choreographed movements or formations.

But even Howe is hesitant to make such a smooth comparison. She says that competition cheerleading is different in that their squad cannot substitute another cheerleader if the primary becomes injured. Each member has their different, essential positions, and if one person becomes hurt, the entire

team cannot compete. Theyve already worked through and around back, neck, wrist problems, strains, and even a mild case of scoliosis.

The Fillmore Central team will be competing under the novice division, even though they perform intermediate and advanced stunts. The team is optimistic about their chances, because of the skill and difficulty that their routine requires

Judges look for originality, togetherness, spirit, and crowd involvement, along with many factors. The routine must be under 2 1/2 minutes, have a team jump, and be contained within a 40 x 40 square. And they look for wide, bright, glistening smiles. that are so prominent on these girls faces.

The cheer is brand new, Howe and Scrabeck beam, and note that it was choreographed with the help of Kirstin Sutherland, a former competition cheerleader. The squad also watched old cheerleading tapes and were guided by their coach, Melissa Onsager, also the coach

of basketball, wrestling, and football cheerleading squads.

Im surprised that I still get nervous! Cassie Scrabeck acknowledges. Though she, and the rest of the squad have performed countless times, she still feels pressure from the crowd.

But crowd support is one thing that Howe doesnt seem to be very worried about. They were great, cheering after every stunt, she said after their first performance in Harmony.

However, they wish to clear up one misconception about competition cheerleading that has been popularized by the media. Its not like Bring It On! she and Cassie Scrabeck voice resoundingly, referring to a popular teen movie that follows top cheerleading squads and their fight for a national championship.

Scrabeck wishes to expunge another stereotype about cheerleading, and to give it the respect it deserves.

Cheerleading is not just a ditzy blonde in a short skirt, but an actual sport. Its a lot harder than it looks, and there is a lot of technique involved, Scrabeck argues.

Respect for the sport was part of Howes motivation for starting a competition squad. And after their first performance, she said, I felt the change in respect. Some people have come up to me already and said, Hey, that was really good,

If these ten girls have anything to do about it, cheerleading at Fillmore Central will be about hard work, skill and team work measured in competition against other schools. Just like any other sport.

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