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All-Americans to take on rest of America

Back in October, Lorin Whitt and the rest of the All-American Spirit (AAS) All-Star cheering squads headed to King’s Fork Recreation Center for the Peanut Fest cheerleading competition. It was the Smithfield High School student’s first-ever cheering contest – and she and the rest of the North Star (age 13-18) AAS team were already a step away from the national level.

Competing was nothing new for Whitt – she’d been a gymnast for over a decade. But it was the first time she wouldn’t be out on the mat alone.

&uot;I loved the tumbling part of gymnastics, and my friends had told me what cheerleading was all about,&uot; she said. &uot;I decided to try it out, and ended up really liking it. This was better (than gymnastics) because my teammates were out there with me.&uot;

She and the rest of the local All-Stars stunted, flipped and tumbled through their two-and-a-half minute routine. Whitt went through some backflips and cartwheels along the front of the team.

&uot;I felt a few things,&uot; she said of afterward. &uot;I was nervous, but all our stunts had stuck, so I felt pretty good.&uot;

She had reason – not only had the AAS girls won the event, but their score of 298 (out of 300) was the highest of any team in the entire show. The AAS Shooting Star (age 8-12) and Shining Star (3-7) teams also won their respective titles, winning everyone a bid to compete in nationals in March at Disney World.

Whitt might have had her team with her, but for a few long minutes, her teammate Caroline Sinesi didn’t, as she represented the squad in individual competition.

&uot;I’m better with my team,&uot; said the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student. &uot;It’s my family, and we like being out there.&uot; Still, she managed to take tops in solo cheering.

Three weeks later, the girls were back in action at the Champion Cheer and Dance Regionals at the Constant Center in Norfolk. That was even more nerve-wracking for a certain newcomer.

&uot;That was a whole different kind of nervousness,&uot; Whitt said. &uot;It was a bigger place. There was a whole different crowd, and a lot of other teams. We were the last team to go, so the nervousness built up. But with all the lights on us and everyone watching us, we wanted to do well.&uot;

They did – once again, all three teams took first, winning a spot in national competition in March back at the Constant Center.

But they’re not finished; on Dec. 10, the girls will go to Norfolk Collegiate for the Cheer Unlimited Regional competition. A win there will win them a bid to yet another national competition in March, this one in Myrtle Beach.

&uot;It won’t be that hard,&uot; said Lakeland student Claudia Graham. &uot;We’re together all the time and we keep our enthusiasm up. The season never really ends; it’s just more people you haven’t seen before.&uot;

The AAS team was born at Forest Glen Middle School a few years ago, then moved to a private gym in 2004 when too many girls came to play. This past June, the squad moved to Windsor Gymnastics and Fitness.

&uot;We really needed more gym space and we got it,&uot; said coach Susan Piland. &uot;We have a lot of the girls taking gymnastics here; nearly the full squad is tumbling. We’ve gone up two levels this year, and that’s a big jump.&uot;

The facility is currently undergoing a 6,000 square foot expansion, scheduled to be completed in early 2006. For more information, call 934-8898 or 242-4900.

jason.norman@suffolknewsherald.com