Let’s go, Warriors! Say hey, let’s go!

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 11, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

What’s tougher? Trying to come up through the ranks to knock off the reigning champion, or defending a title, knowing that everyone’s gunning for you, wanting to be the one that knocks you off your perch?

Last Saturday, the Bennett’s Creek cheerleaders got to experience both at the Southeastern Virginia Pop Warner football league championships at Churchland High School. While the junior midgets would be trying for their first title in years, the midgets, who cheered their team to a divisional title this past season, defended the championship that they’d brought to Suffolk the last two tries.

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In the week leading up to the contest, the older girls attempted to put everything else aside for the contest, said Jordan Foutenot.

&uot;We didn’t practice more, just harder,&uot; said the 12-year-old. &uot;We were trying to perfect our routine, so there was less playing around.&uot; Jordan had one of the toughest jobs on the team; in the course of a 150-second routine, she gets tossed into the air, has to catch another flyer, and cartwheels and backflips down the line in front of her teammates at the end.

&uot;We had different cheers, stunts and routines,&uot; said Stephanie Polenski, a member of the squad that won the title last year. &uot;I was confident, because we were good.&uot;

Meanwhile, over at Driver Elementary (the older girls practiced at Yeates Middle), their junior counterparts put the finishing touches on their exhibition.

&uot;This one seemed like it was more talented and fun,&uot; said Kiara Harris of the junior squad (she cheered for the Pee-Wee team two years ago). &uot;We did more stunts. I felt pretty pumped, because we had a good routine.&uot;

Early Saturday morning, both squads arrived at the Portsmouth school, and spent the next few hours warming up and cheering for the other squads. Then, at about 1 p.m., the junior midget Lady Warriors hit the carpeted mat for their respective division competition.

&uot;Beware, cheerleaders, you’re up against the best!&uot; they shouted. &uot;We’re the Warriors, and we’ll put you to the test! We’re headed for a victory, and you better let us through. So good luck, cheerleaders, we’re coming after you.&uot; Some were hurled into the air, and came down in the safe arms of their teammates. Others were lifted, and stretched into one position after another. In front, impromptu gymnastic routines took place. When all was said, done, stunted and cheered, the crowd and midget cheerers erupted into applause.

&uot;I was excited but nervous,&uot; said Megan Richardson. &uot;I felt confident that we were going to win, because we did good.&uot;

Before they’d find out how the judges liked their display, the juniors went to cheer for the elder Lady Warriors. The Suffolk squad was the third to perform.

Watching the other teams, said Jordan, &uot;I was a little nervous, because they all did really well.&uot; Finally, just after 2 p.m., it was their turn.

&uot;Let’s go, Warriors! Say hey, let’s go! Bennett’s Creek, the red, black and white, is back once again, with victory in sight! So Warriors, let’s go, let’s fight, victory tonight!&uot; Afterward, the two teams huddled together in the hopes that their words and hopes would come true.

The junior midget results came first. And for the first time of the millennium, they were the top cheerers from their division. That’s when things blew up.

&uot;We were all crying and jumping up and down,&uot; Kiara said. &uot;We were so excited.&uot;

They weren’t the only ones.

&uot;We were excited for them,&uot; said midget Ashlee Key. &uot;We wanted everyone on our team to win.&uot; After things calmed down, the Lady Warriors hoped for a second 2004 championship.

The Norfolk Nighthawks, Norfolk Saints and Cavalier Manor got honorable mentions, and Churchland took third. It was down to the Lady Warriors and Olive Branch. Ali Maupin tried to keep her emotions under control.

&uot;They were stalling,&uot; she said. But not for long; seconds later, the Branch squad got second, meaning that Suffolk had proved that third time is indeed a charm. Now came another round of craziness.

&uot;We were screaming and crying,&uot; Ali said. &uot;You couldn’t hear anything. It was a relief, after all the work we’d done.&uot;

The work isn’t over; the two squads head down to Raleigh on Nov. 26 for the regional competitions. They’re now trying to become the first local cheering team of the millennium to make it to the nationals in Disney World.

The local public can help; the squads will be holding a family spaghetti dinner night from 5 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 20 at the Driver Volunteer Fire Department. Tickets are $5, good for a spaghetti dinner and a drink. The trip will cost $800 per child.