The Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School cheerleading team is headed to the world cheerleading championship this weekend in Orlando, Fla.
The team has been preparing for the competition since earning a bid last May by winning the Sea to Sky Championships in Vancouver. But, according to Hilary Tong, 17, “it still feels so unreal.”
The World School Cheerleading Championship will be held at the Walt Disney World resort on Feb. 10-11. The LTSS team is one of two B.C. teams headed to the competition, and one of 16 Canadian teams offered a bid.
The Cloverdale Reporter sat down with Hilary and three of her team members — Emma Thornton, 17, Julia Kolb, 16, and Devanté Scarpino, 15 — to chat about the upcoming competition.
The team has been doing full performance runs at each three-hour practice, focusing on the clean execution of a stunt-heavy routine, in preparation for the championship.
Hilary said the difficulty of their routine has gone up since last year, and it incorporates more elements than ever before.
“I think this is the highest level [routine] we’ve ever done,” said Emma. “Last year all of our stunts were at front-level, so it’s at your chest. This year everything is extended [as high as we can reach].”
“We’ve all had to work really hard to get where we are right now,” said Hilary.
Each stunt group within the team is made up of a flyer (the person in the air during a stunt), two bases that hold the flyer and a back spot who is ready to catch the flyer. Each of the groups has to work closely as a unit, and each member has an essential job.
The groups encourage each other and challenge each other, too. “When I see Devanté’s stunt [group] do a higher-level stunt than mine, then I want to be as good as them,” said Emma.
The team has been pushing themselves on certain elements — they can now vault their flyers so high, they nearly clear the second-storey balcony of the LTSS cafeteria — but the pyramid remains the most difficult element in the routine. It isn’t challenging because of technical difficulty, but because it comes at the end of an exhausting routine.
“It’s more that we’re so tired at that point,” explained Hilary. “We have to cheer for each other and motivate each other to get through it.”
The LTSS team needs to make sure they keep their energy up right until the end, as that’s part of what the judges will be looking for. As in Canada, the international judges will be looking for sharp, high-energy routines with clean execution. But they will also be judging how the audience responds and interacts with the routine.
“They judge how much you get the crowd into it,” said Emma. “In Canada, you just have to hit your stunts.”
The 18-member team is coached by Cassi Campbell, Alanna McMillan and Rebecca Lessard, and all will be headed down to Orlando for the competition.
“I don’t know who’s more nervous, me or the kids,” said Campbell, laughing.
Campbell, who has been to Orlando for other cheerleading championships, said there will be thousands of cheerleaders from all over the world, and that she is looking forward to seeing the different styles of cheerleading from the international teams.
The team is excited for the competition and the trip to Disney World, but Campbell knows that they will work hard and be focused when it comes to competing this weekend.
Campbell is still working on her pep-talk for the team, but did say she wants them to “enjoy the experience and the journey leading up to this amazing opportunity, and to go out there and leave it all on the mat.”
When asked, the LTSS cheerleaders will tell you they want to place well, too.
“We want to win,” said Devanté.
“I want to hit, too. The feeling when you hit out of a competition like this is amazing – when you know you couldn’t have done any better,” said Emma.
“It’s such a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Hilary. “For the grads like me and Emma, it means everything. This is definitely the highlight of my grad year.”