May 17th, 2024

High flying cheerleaders showcase teamwork skills

By Dale Woodard - Lethbridge Herald on December 7, 2021.

Herald photo by Dale Woodard Members of the Lethbridge Perfect Storm Athletics cheerleading team perform at Frost Bite Saturday morning at Lethbridge College.

There was plenty of reason for a rah-rah attitude Saturday at the Val Matteotti Gymnasium at Lethbridge College.
With the competitive season right around the corner, Perfect Storm Athletics Lethbridge held its Frostbite 2021.
The result in the college gym was a loud and upbeat atmosphere as the music pumped and spirits were as high as some of the athletes were tossed as roughly 150 athletes got to trot out their routines in front of a live audience.
“This is our showcase,” said Kandy Paradee, manager of Perfect Storm Lethbridge, one of four locations in Alberta. “The kids have been working on their routines for the last three months and they’re at a point now where most of them are finished. All through the season they keep adding things, changing things and making their routines more challenging. So this is Plan A and we’re working toward Plan Z by the end of the season. A few of the elite teams aren’t quite finished, but they’re pretty close and they’re pretty amazing.”
The ages of the club members range from three all the way to 50-plus on the rec team, said Paradee.
But most of performers Saturday ranged between four-and-a-half and 18.
“This is their first experience of being out in front of an audience. They know they’re not being judged, so it takes a little bit of the stress off,” said Paradee.
The first actual competition will take place at the Enmax Centre at the end of January, said Paradee, adding the event is called Imagine.
“It’s so much fun,” she said. “That’s their first experience with judges and the glitz, glamour and the excitement of a full-on competition. So it’s really nice we can do it here at home. They’ll compete all the way to April. Some will be done in March depending on what level they’re at.”
The newer and younger teams practise once or twice a week depending on what level they’ve committed to, said Paradee.
“They learn to tumble, stunt and do a little bit of dance. Cheer is an amazing, multi-faceted sport and they get judged on their tumbling and stunting and then how creative they can be putting it together with a bit of dance.”
On Saturday, the athletes were able to put that all on display for an appreciative audience.
“Because the college still has to restrict seating somewhat, we still probably could have filled the stands today,” said Paradee.  “Everybody was just so excited to get back at it and be able to see the kids. We felt bad we couldn’t accommodate everyone, but they’re excited for the Enmax in January because everybody will be able to be there.”
Among the cheerleaders taking centre stage Saturday were 13-year-old Lily Quinonez and 11-year-old Dekoa Blackwater.
After the COVID-19 pandemic put their performances on hold, Quinonez said it was good to be back.
“I’m really excited today because I haven’t been able to do this for 20 months,” she said. “I’m really excited. I’m in a new gym now, so it’s like a new environment. I’m really liking it.”
Quinonez has been a cheerleader for about six years.
“I had a friend in Grade 1 that used to do cheer,” she said. “So I thought it was always this cool thing, so I decided to try it. I just really like the environment and how everyone is so supportive of each other.”
Blackwater is a seven-year cheerleader veteran.
“My older cousin used to do it and it just seemed really fun, so I started doing it,” she said. “It’s really fun because they hype you up and clap for you.
“It’s fun and we get to compete a lot. The people here are really nice.”
As she waited to do her routine Saturday, Quinonez was already looking forward to the event at the Enmax in the New Year.
“I’m so excited for it,” she said. “We have one competition before that, but I’m very excited to start competing again.”
In the meantime, Quinonez and her teammates will make sure they’re game ready.
“We practise about three times a week for about two-and-a-half hours, so have to wake up in the morning and condition and work out, too,” she said.
Paradee said the athletes will be doing some clinics over the Christmas break to boost their tumbling skills.
“It’s just constant practice and making sure their routines are clean and ready for competition.”
Paradee said Perfect Storm Athletics will be reaching out to elementary schools to get their school programming started up again.
“Our coaches are amazing because they basically volunteer to help foster the scholastic cheer program we’re also trying to build in the city. So we’re really looking forward to building our scholastic program next season.”
Those interested in cheerleading can still join Perfect Storm Athletics, which has winter sessions starting after the Christmas break.
“It would be amazing if we could get some more enrollment in the recreational and novice programs, then those kids will be ready for the fall startup next year,” said Paradee.
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