Three cheers for Bulldogs
Bellerose cheer team performs at high school provincials this weekend
By: By Nicole Starker
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013 06:00 am
The Bellerose Bulldogs cheer team is pumped up for a podium finish at the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association championships this weekend in Drayton Valley.
The Bulldogs earned a spot at the provincials by placing second in the large varsity division at the Edmonton zone meet on Feb. 16.
Linda Schwam has been the Bellerose cheer team’s staff advisor for 12 years and says the team has an excellent group of coaches, all of whom are university students.
“They have wanted to become cheer coaches so they either have their coaching level one or are working on their level two now. They’re young girls and they’re fabulous,” Schwam says.
One of the five cheer team coaches is former Bellerose student and cheer team member Erica Eperjesy, who graduated in 2010. Eperjesy is a second year MacEwan University student and this is her first year coaching the cheer team at Bellerose. She and the other coaches are working with a team of 21 this season.
“As coaches we are so proud of what they have accomplished,” Eperjesy says. “They have blown us away this year. Being first time coaches, we weren’t really sure what to expect, but we were just absolutely blown away with their dedication to the sport and their willingness to try new things.”
The Bulldogs squad is having a stellar season. In addition to their successful showing at zones, they placed second at the Athabasca CheerFest on Feb. 2 and earlier this month took first place out of five teams in the large varsity division at the U of A Cheer Challenge/Ross Sheppard Cheer Championships.
Eperjesy says heading into provincials the girls have been really pushing themselves and had some solid practices the last few weeks. She says their communication is the team’s biggest strength.
“I know the girls really communicate well to each other, and when they get a little frustrated they’re really good about talking to each other and saying what needs to be fixed, but in a way that’s effective and it gets the job done,” says Eperjesy. “Like when they’re holding each other up, if the stunt comes down wrong they’ll talk to each other and say, ‘This is what needs to be fixed,’ or ‘I feel like this needs to be done in order for the stunt to be stronger.’ ”
This year, the Bulldogs are an all-female squad. It is also a fairly young team with just nine returning members. The remainders are Grade 10 students, and many of them were on their junior high cheer teams.
The cheer team held tryouts in October and have been practising twice a week since then.
“The competition time is February and March so their practising time is from October until February,” Schwam says. “They practise all of that time to get to this point – ready for competition.”
At provincials, the cheer team will perform a two-and-a-half minute routine – once on Friday and once on Saturday. Schwam says the judge will be looking at several aspects of the team’s routine.
“Athletic ability … a voice cheer, as well as dance, and they do tumbling and stunting, so all of that is all in their routine. It’s quite a combination.”
Schwam says the team has cheered at Bellerose football games, but that is not the focus of the cheer team.
“This is a competition team, just like football or basketball,” she said.
The cheer members are highly-trained athletes requiring strength and stamina to complete the stunts and tosses included in their routines and the team regularly books time at local gymnastics clubs because they are better facilities in which to practise tumbling and stunting.
Schwam says the local popularity of cheer is growing. While the junior high schools have had cheer teams, this was the inaugural year for cheer teams at the Paul Kane and St. Albert Catholic high schools.
“I guess cheer is becoming popular in St. Albert,” she said. “There are a lot of cheer teams now. We were the only one for many, many years.”