Competition Cheer team flips at the idea of winning Nationals

Competition Cheer team flips at the idea of winning Nationals

Photo: Alona Skipper

Junior Camren Callup, senior Bethany Blumenstock and junior Rachael Barnett and other members of Fairmont’s Competition Cheerleading squad perform during an exhibition at the Fairmont Cheer Challenge in November.

By Brad Steel, Editorial Assistant

During the winter sports season, fans crowd the Trent Arena to watch girls’ and boys’ basketball and wrestling. People also rush to the bowling alleys and swimming pools to watch the bowling and swimming/diving teams, respectively. Sometimes overlooked, however, is another Fairmont sport: Competition Cheerleading.

Competition Cheerleading is not officially considered a sport by the Ohio High School Athletic Association; however, the Greater Western Ohio Conference does recognize it as a sport. Despite the debate, Fairmont’s Competition Cheerleading squad has been very successful.

In the 2011-12 season, Fairmont’s Competition Cheerleading squad went to Orlando, Fla., to compete in the National High School Cheerleading Championship, considered the most prestigious cheerleading competition in the country by the the Universal Cheerleading Association. The Firebirds took 3rd place at the competition in the Large Varsity Non-Building category, behind two other GWOC teams, Miamisburg and Centerville.

The categories are similar to classes or divisions. For example, percussion ensembles have certain classes, such as Open and World, and football has divisions. The higher the class or division, the harder the competition. Needless to say, the GWOC is considered one of the most competitive divisions in the state.

The NHSCC on Feb. 9-10, 2013, has been a huge emphasis for the team this year, especially for Captain Kelsey Gearhart, a senior. “We have a really good chance at winning Nationals this year,” said Gearhart.

But the road to Nationals isn’t an easy one. The team moved from Large Varsity Non-Building to Small Varsity Non-Building this year, which puts them up against some different competition.  The team qualified for Nationals at their second competition of the year at Centerville High School.

The team, having taken nothing less than 2nd so far in all their competitions, has Coach Carrie Kihn proud of her squad and looking for a lot more out of them the rest of the season. “This is one of the best teams I’ve had the pleasure of coaching” said Kihn. “I wholeheartedly believe we can win Nationals this year.”

The cheer squad has been able to handle the competition, but they face other problems every day. Besides competing against other cheerleading teams, Fairmont’s Competition Cheerleading team is battling a stereotype as well. “A lot of people don’t really respect what we do,” said Gearhart. “They don’t understand that we practice just as much as other sports and have conditioning and tumbling classes on top of that.”

Along with three two-hour practices per week, the team attends tumbling and gymnastics classes, lifts weights and conditions. “We practice 9 months out of the year,” said Kihn. “It’s a very intense sport.”

Another debate that comes up often is the difference between sideline and competition cheerleading. While the techniques are similar, the purposes are quite different. Sideline cheerleading incorporates the audience and getting the students excited and involved. On the other hand, competition cheerleading focuses on the performance and execution of that performance.

“I’ve coached both sideline and competition,” said Kihn. “The main difference between the two is the intensity that comes with cheering competitively.”

Gearhart, who has experience in both types of cheerleading and received best all-around cheerleader in the 2011 season, agreed. “During sideline cheerleading, we are cheering for a team,” said Gearhart. “But for competition, we cheer for ourselves and our squad.”

To see Fairmont’s Competition Cheerleading squad in competition last year, click HERE.