Twenty talented young athletes from Maple Ridge Secondary will be representing Canada at the 2020 World School Cheerleading Championships in Orlando next month (Feb 7 to 9).
The event will see teams from as far away as Finland and Japan compete for international recognition.
Sofie Van De Keere, a former cheer athlete who is now one of the co-coaches, could not be more excited.
“I think it’s huge for everyone involved,” she said.
“I think it’s awesome that MRSS has a booming cheerleading team.
“I think it’s awesome for the girls because a lot of them have been working for this for a lot of years and they got to experience some failure along the way and they’ve been all growing up until this moment.”
Competition will be stiff, so Van De Keere is being realistic about the team’s expectations.
“We’ve been saying it doesn’t really matter if you win or lose at this point. It’s just going that we’ve been working towards, so it’ll be a great opportunity for everybody,” she said.
“The mindset going in is that obviously we’d like to do well but most of all we just want to hit clean, which means no falls and no [point] deductions.”
A common misconception, the coach pointed out, is most people do not realize that cheerleading is now quite separate from being a sideline sideshow.
“The competitive cheerleading that we do is a sport in itself,” Van De Keere said. “It’s hard work… it can get intense, but there’s no sport out there quite like it.”
The team of girls from Grades 8 to 12 practise about five hours a week, 12 months of the year.
Leading up to the event, Van De Keere said the athletes will be focused more on stretching and their routines, so they do not get exhausted and risk injury before the big meet.
As a squad they always look out for one another, their coach said.
“If a stunt isn’t working no one is getting down on each other, instead they provide them a safe space for them to work on what needs to be fixed. It is a very positive environment.”
Their routine will consist of a one minute cheer and a 90-second music portion where they complete stunts, jumps, pyramids and – of course – dance.
Van De Keere said cheer has enriched all the athletes’ lives.
“I talk to them along the way and they say they would not have known each other if it weren’t for this team,” she said.
“So I think that’s one big thing that sticks with me is that we’ve created a little family amongst Maple Ridge Secondary.”