Lewis Frasier Middle School’s competitive cheerleading squad had a successful first season, coach Cassandra Cruz said.
The girls competed in four events between January and May. They took first place at the Ruby Championships in January on Jekyll Island and second place at the Savannah Diamond Championship February. In spring, they placed first at the Pinnacle Battle of Champions in March and placed first in Jacksonville in May.
It was a season that meant a lot of extra hours in the gym, a season Cruz said may be tough to repeat with eight of the cheerleaders entering high school this week.
“It’s not just about the cheering,” the coach explained. “They are dancing, and they are lifting people. These girls practiced and rarely had any time off. They would come in on Saturdays and work. They put in a lot of time for the competitive season.”
Cruz, a career-education teacher at LFMS for the last eight years, said she decided to become a cheer coach when her oldest daughter got into the sport while in the sixth grade. Both her daughters are now in high school. But, Cruz said, despite her busy schedule and going back to school herself, she made time to coach the middle-school competitive team because the girls showed interest and desire.
“Parental support was above the roof,” Cruz said. “The parents were ready to travel, help with last-minute fundraisers … We did a lot of traveling and it gets expensive, and the parents were there for everything.”
Cruz said the middle school’s regular cheerleading team had roughly 17 girls on the squad. Of those, 10 chose to join the competitive squad, putting in the extra training needed for the shows.
“Their strength is their dance and their jumps,” the coach said, adding that the girls won a banner at one of the meets. “Because they had the best jumps out of everybody. Our weakness is definitely our tumbling. We didn’t have as many girls that had the advanced tumbling skills, so I had someone come in to work with the girls on their tumbling.”
She said competition is tough and you only have 2 minutes, 30 seconds to show the judges a perfect routine.
“It is the showmanship, the endurance ... For that 2:30, it takes us four to five months to get everything done and perfect,” she said. “They are judged on their movements, choreography, facial expressions and so many different things.”
She said there is much more pressure on the competitive cheering squad than most people realize.
“When they are out on the football field and doing their cheers, no one is judging them, so if they make a mistake it is OK,” she said. “But in competitive cheer, the judges are looking at every little thing and critiquing you on it.”
And Cruz said people who don’t think that cheering is a sport should come to one of her practices and see for themselves.
“When you are a football player or a basketball player, you have to catch the ball,” she said. “In cheerleading, you have to catch a person. It is nowhere as easy as people think.”
The competitive squad featured Allysia Dunkins, Amari Walker, Breanna Wood, Mia Stevenson, Kyra Barney, Alexus Chavis, Maizy Sanchez, Tatianna Kenny, Tiyana Kelly, Jaylyn Matthews and Quinterra Jamison.