Warrior cheerleaders make regionals

Published 12:17 am Saturday, October 31, 2009

Three months of practice comes down to a 3-minute routine, and that’s it. Either the team aces the routine like it practiced so many times, or that’s it until next season.

That’s high school cheerleading, not what’s seen on the sidelines at football or basketball games, but competitive cheerleading.

Last Saturday, for the first time in school history, Nansemond River’s cheerleading team earned a spot in the Eastern Region Championship by placing second out of 10 schools in the Southeastern District competition at Oscar Smith.

“We practice one week for what we do at football games. We practice for three months for competition,” said Nansemond River head coach Vickie Stewart.

“Hours upon hours go into this and everything has to hit perfectly. That’s what I try to tell people when we’re trying to get time in the gym. It’s not like, say the basketball team, we don’t have game after game to get better during the season,” said Stewart.

Last year, the Lady Warriors finished fourth in the district, two spots out of a regional berth.

At the meet, each squad has a 3-minute routine. By meeting certain criteria, teams get as many points as possible. More than anything though, it’s about performing despite the pressure. All the friends and parents who turn out to watch add to the pressure.

“It’s basically pandemonium. It’s such a sport now and it’s pretty much the same thing with our fans as it is with any other sport. There is so much energy and it’s just crazy,” said Stewart.

When the final scores were being announced, Stewart and her squad thought they were in good shape as two of the perennial favorites in the district wound up third and fourth. Then when second place was official, “it was pure pandemonium. It was ridiculous, but a fun kind of ridiculous,” said Stewart.

Each Southeastern District school has one cheerleader named to the All-District Team and Jordan Fontenot was Nansemond River’s representative.

“She’s a great captain, a great dancer, and great cheerer and a great tumbler. She’s really a well-balanced cheerleader,” said Stewart.

Through the hours and hours of practicing high-risk, fast-paced routines and maneuvers, scary injuries are as big a part of cheerleading as any other sport.

“As a coach, my first priority is safety,” said Stewart. “There’s no talking, or laughing during stunting.”

“We’ve had several small injuries this season, but we’ve been pretty fortunate,” said Stewart.

“Think about it though, these girls are taking someone, sometimes someone heavier than they are, and lifting and balancing them over their head. We have to be very careful with everything we do,” said Stewart.

Even with the best finish in school history, the season now goes on and gets even more intense for the Lady Warriors. The regional competition is Nov. 7 at Churchland High School.

“We have to step it up and clean it up,” said Stewart, and there’s one more way that cheerleading is truly a big-time high school sport.

At the district competition, teams from the Beach District where there to scout out there upcoming opponents.

“Oh yeah, it’s crazy,” said Stewart.