By: Rebecca Winkler
66 jumps, 47 tumbling skills, 23 stunts, 580.76 points in 4 minutes and 39 seconds. The cheer team has prepared their 3 routines for their invitational at Livonia Franklin high school (12/9) and their first league meet at Rochester high school (12/12). They've been practicing together as a team for a month and a lot has happened since their first tryout days.
Freshman Sydnee Hubert-McLenon said she started cheer in 7th grade "during the middle of dance season, because I wanted to test it out and I just really liked it from there." Competitive season will be her 2nd season on varsity. For her, tryouts were "really scary; we had to do tumbling, stunts, and we had to learn a cheer in 2 days. It was really fun but really hard."
Ashley Campbell is a sophomore and has been doing cheer since 6th grade when her mother put her in to make new friends going into middle school. This competitive season will be her 9th season doing cheer and 4th season on varsity. She said tryouts for her were "really stressful and a lot of work; it was multiple days so you had to always had to be putting out your best effort throughout those days."
Makinsie Godfrey is another one of the 8 sophomores on the varsity competitive cheer team. This will be her 3rd season on varsity. Makinsie said in 7th grade "I had been doing gymnastics for 2 or 3 years before and cheer was something I was interested in. I didn't want to do it at a gym so I joined the school team." She added that tryouts, "were nerve racking as always but not as much as last year since I've been on varsity before."
Coach Beth Ann Mavis has coached the Clarkston varsity cheer team for a long time, although this is the first season in 6 years that Mavis will not be coaching, as she has been put on bed rest for her baby because of the high stress of coaching. Mary Kathryn Longo or Coach MK has been coaching the JV cheer team for 3 years but has moved up to the varsity level to fill in for Coach Mavis.
Coach MK said, "I would say it's stressful moving up from the JV level to just being the only varsity coach because I've always had the varsity coach to look up to for guidance but I don't have that. I have to do that for myself so it was a challenging transition but now it's very easy to manage. The team is very committed so it's not like JV where you have to get everyone to do what they need to, varsity athletes are more seasoned and already know what they need to do so it's smoother in that way."
During the competitive season the girls learn 3 rounds. The first is a "flat" routine. The girls only do motions and jumps to words. The second round is their tumbling round. They are allowed to do tumbling, jumps, and motions to words but every girl has to be doing the same thing. The third involves anything the girls want like tumbling or jumps but primarily focuses on stunting.
Campbell said in comparison to football season, "It's more work. Football season is all about getting people excited where competitive is like it's name, a lot more competitive and structured"
On Saturday the team placed 7th out of 11 teams with one penalty for misspoken words and one fall in the third round .
Godfrey said she was worried "that a couple stunts will bobble but I think that we're in a good place and we're starting off well for our first competition."
Coach MK said, "I'm expecting us to be a little nervous we have a lot of people who have never competed before but I think are material is strong and if we perform like we have at practice out material will look strong and will but good at the competition."
Although this was the first competition for many of the girls at a varsity level, for the two seniors of the team, it was their last time they will have a first competition for the season.
Many of the girls looked up to both seniors Savannah McCue and Elizabeth Vanheulen
"I look up to Elizabeth because she can be herself while performing her motions to the fullest." said Hubert-McLenon.
Godfrey said "I've always looked up to Savannah because she's been cheering for a long time and she's always there to support everyone.".
The girls practice every single day for 2 1/2 hours to perfect their routines for competitions that can range from 3 hours to 12 hours on the weekends depending on the amount of teams.
When asked about the stereotypes of cheerleading, Coach MK expressed "The most misleading is it's not a sport or not as rigorous or as challenging as it really is. We practice just as much as the basketball team we put in as much as work, effort, and intensity but we don't get the recognition for that. Some people think they're just a bunch of girls standing around with bows on, just out there yelling out some words. They don't understand there's tumbling, stunting, there are other components to cheer and just as much injuries that happen, if not more."
The team has allowed the girls to bond as a team with the hours they spend together, especially when their stunts are literally putting each other lives into someone's hands.
Godfrey says she enjoys "the team and the family we create and the girls that I can trust and go to and it really feels like a second family.".
The team have just put together the base of their routines and have already planned on adding to their routines. The girls hope to bring up their point values with more difficult team tumbling, further synchronizing motions and stunts, and adding flairs to make the stunts more interesting. The girls will continue their competitions at their second league meet at Lake Orion High on January 10th.