There is no substitute for hard work and preparation, which is why the members of the Grand Mesa All Star Cheerleading Team are wasting no time learning the competitive routines they'll be performing between now and next spring.
Cheerleading "season" runs from August to March, and like many other athletic endeavors, begins at "camp" with team- and skill-building activities.
Practices continue twice a week at Calvary Baptist Church in Delta.
Coach Kristine Galvin formed the Grand Mesa All Star Cheerleading Team after the cheerleading program was cut from Delta High School due to budget constraints. It turns out you can take the cheerleader out of the school, but you can't take the cheer out of the girls. So after six years of coaching at the high school, Kristine put together a competitive team for girls ages 8-18.
Business partner Stephanie Rapozo, a DHS grad who was coached by Kristine, normally handles stunts and choreography, but due to pregnancy has handed off some of her duties to team captain Jordyn Galvin.
"These girls do cheer on their own time because they love it," Rapozo said.
The team is registered with the National Cheerleading Association and the Universal Cheerleading Association.
They travel to at least four out-of-town competitions each year. Last year, the girls placed first at the Western Slope National Cheerleading Competition at Colorado Mesa University and won their division at the Denver Grand Championship Competition. A total of 116 teams competed in the championships at the Colorado Convention Center last spring. They also placed first in the Jamfest by Mega Jam Series, and earned a bid to the national finals. Unfortunately, cost prohibits the team from travelling out of state. Not because they're afraid to work — the girls conduct several fundraisers throughout the year to help cover uniform costs, travel expenses and entry fees for competition. One of Jordyn Galvin's responsibilities as team captain is to organize bake sales, car washes, candle sales and other fundraisers to help cover team expenses.
Locally, team members perform at middle and high school athletic events, participate in Delta's Parade of Lights, and show off their skills to appreciate friends and relatives at family night.
"The best part is performing in a crowd," Rapozo says. "You can feel a little nervous at the beginning, but you're so proud and excited when you're done."
Last year's success has apparently carried over to 2013-14, with nearly twice as many girls from Delta, Montrose, Olathe, Cedaredge, Hotchkiss, Paonia and Grand Junction participating. More than half have never cheered before. The girls have been divided into two divisions, juniors and seniors. A group of nine 7-year-old girls forms the nucleus of the junior squad; the senior level includes 28 girls between the ages of 11 and 18. Four girls are on both squads.
Before the season begins, the coaches choreograph a routine that moves smoothly from dance to group stunts to tumbling passes. At competition, eachdivision is allowed — and expected — to perform stunts appropriate for their age and division. Each week, the girls learn a bit more of the routine. Once it's all put together, it's a matter of practice, practice, practice.
Although there are separate after-school practice sessions for the junior and senior divisions, they mirror one another in everything but length. The girls start with stretching, then move on to a 2 1/2-minute routine that's set to music. This early in the season they're just starting to memorize the moves; later focus will shift to timing, synchronization and precise execution. Technique, creativity and stunt difficulty will beunder close scrutiny when the team takes the stage for competition.
Finally, they practice jumps and stunts. The "littles" burn off energy with somersaults, cartwheels and roundoffs. The seniors take tumbling to the next level, with pyramids, basket tosses and group stunts which are incorporated into the dance routine. Girls who have a solid foundation in gymnastics might have a step up to begin with, but Galvin and Rapozo are certified to coach beginning tumbling.
"For a long time I thought cheerleading was just about the glitz and glamour and yelling at the crowd to get pumped up," said former team member Kailyn Williams, who received an $8,000cheerleading scholarship at the University of Great Falls in Montana. "Yes, the glitz and glamour and yelling is part of it, but there is so much more. Through hours of hard practice and dedication, I learned that if you work hard enough and put all that you can into something, you can go far in life with it. Coaches Galvin and Rapozo taught me that sometimes frustration can produce some amazing results. They coached me to be the best athlete I can be and I say ATHLETE with pride, even though few people believe that cheer is a sport."
Cheer is indeed a sport, Kristine says, requiring strength, flexibility and agility. Girls who aren't into volleyball or basketball don't get a chance to experience the camaraderie that comes from being part of a team; cheerleading provides that opportunity while still allowing girls to participate in high school sports if they wish.
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