Paul Kane cheerleaders head to provincials
Alberta Schools Athletic Association’s provincial championships to take place this weekend
Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 06:00 am
At some point this weekend, Caitlin Levesque, 15, will be pushed about eight feet high, get tossed into the air to perform a perfect turn and end up standing on one leg.
If all goes well, the airborne cheerleader, also known as the flier, will then fall back into her teammates’ arms, and hopefully score some points.
The Paul Kane Blues, a local cheerleading team, will be heading to the Alberta Schools Athletic Association’s provincial championships this weekend. The performance has six co-ed teams competing for first place. Competition runs Friday and Saturday at Harry Ainley high school in Edmonton.
“I’m really excited that we made provincials because provincials are the ultimate competition,” said Levesque at a practice session last week.
Levesque is one of 12 kids, three guys and nine girls, attending the Paul Kane High School cheerleading classes. She cheered all throughout junior high school and joined the Blues last year, she said.
It’s a good team with a “solid performance” and strong attitude towards the sport, she said.
But as the team’s trainer, Jennifer Hawirko pointed out, this week’s competition won’t be easy. The Blues have only existed for two years. They are a strong team but it takes a lot to win, she said.
And they were lucky to get into the provincials, because they pulled a wild card, she said.
“We were really excited to get the wild card because we had a bad showing at zones,” she said, referring to one of eight geographical areas in the Edmonton region in which teams compete before moving on to the provincials.
“But at our last competition we took second. We beat all the teams in our zones, all the teams but one.”
That team, the Austin O’Brien Crusaders, has been a powerhouse in co-ed cheerleading for years, she said. The Blues will now face them again at provincials, she said.
Over the next week, the team will have to smooth out its performance, and learn some new tricks, she said. “Our biggest challenge is just learning the skills and getting the kids to work together,” she said. “It takes a lot of physical fitness for them to hit the skills that we work for.”
Cheerleading is not the most popular sport anymore, said Hawirko. There are stereotypes about pom-poms and short skirts plus many people don’t understand why people do it, she said. But there’s also a lot of pride in it and the whole school knows the team.
It’s still difficult to recruit, she said. This year the team had only 16 people applying for a position in the squad, all from grades 10 and 11. They also have the longest schedule for high school sports in the city, from October to April, and the cheerleaders need to be physically fit for that entire time, she said. If they get hurt, they can’t perform, she said.
The team’s routine includes everything from acrobatic stunts, dance, jumps, tumbling and a cheer. The dance is only two-and-a-half minutes long but they work on it all year, she said.
“A lot of them come with no cheerleading experience so we have to take them from zero to a high level of cheerleading in a really short time,” she said. “And if they want it, they work hard for it.”
Brendon Armstrong, 16, is one of those newcomers.
He had considered being on the team for a while, because it’s a great workout, he said. Doing the stunts and tumbles is very cool, he said. And the provincials will be a good place to show off what the team can do, he said.
“I am really excited and we are really trying our best to step our level up and make sure we have our A-game on,” he said.
The Paul Kane Blues will compete against five other teams on Friday, March 21 and Saturday, March 22 at 4350 – 111 St. in Edmonton. Other schools competing in the co-ed category are Brooks Composite High School, Eastglen, Edwin Parr Composite and Victoria School of the Arts.
The top three places in each cheerleading category – small, large and co-ed varsity – will receive medals and keeper plaques. The first place winner will receive a trophy to keep in their school for one year. Teams will also elect one cheerleading squad for a sportsmanship banner.