Competitive cheerleaders pursue passion outside scholastic competition

Lauren Serge | Staff Writer

There is a lot to cheer about when it comes to the determination of competitive cheerleaders.

The Queen City Storm (QCS) is home to an abundance of talent. The gym holds individual teams, where girls are placed into positions based on their strengths and levels that increase in difficulty as they progress. On February 3, QCS will attend a competition in Columbus, and stress is high, as their performance could potentially earn the teams an invitation, or bid, to compete in a national competition held in Florida.

Junior Mallory Paris has been a part of QCS for five years and has a position on the Riptide team. Paris said the teams are under an amplitude of pressure to perform well at this event.

“Prior to competition, our practices run exactly as our routines would on competition day, all of our tumbling, stunting, jumps, and dances altogether,” Paris said. “It’s gonna be really hard because it’s a large competition that requires more teams, which makes our chances of scoring the bid slimmer.”

Sophomore Hannah Paschke has been with QCS for 11 years and said the likelihood of garnering the bid depends on whether they extinguish their past mistakes. Paschke said the teams are perfecting their routines by focusing on prior criticism received by judges.

“We started our competitions back in October, and we got feedback from our judges then, so we improve our difficulties based on that feedback to impress the judges more this time around,” Paschke said. “For each practice, we run through the entire routine four times, and in between each, we work on whatever we didn’t hit.”

In school, competitive cheer acquires minimal recognition, which sets the bar higher for the teams to shift their triumphs to the forefront. Senior Sydney Schuster said the inattention is intertwined with the misconception that competitive cheer and sideline cheer are synonymous, making it harder for the teams to express their individuality.

“When people hear that I do cheer, they tend to think of sideline cheer, but the two are vastly different,” Schuster said. “We aren’t vocal during our performance, and we do stunting; whereas, sideline cheer isn’t allowed to do so. As a whole, cheerleading still is not viewed as a sport, even though we undergo the same physical contact. We get hit, we get bruises, we just don’t wear the pads.”

In 2017, out of 129 football teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I, there was a limit of 85 scholarships available for member schools to award each team. Contrastly, cheerleading, which obtains a mere fraction of such scholarships, is not recognized as part of the NCAA.

Paschke, who cheers for both QCS and Mason, said the minimized support and opportunities for cheerleading merely increases the determination to persist. Paschke said the inability to obtain credit for the sport and the scarcity of scholarship possibilities widens the enthusiasm the girls have.

“The sport is extremely stressful and frequently disrespected, but being a part of it is like an escape for me. You get to make friends with people from other schools and have some of the most fun experiences throughout your life,”  Paschke said.

Though cheering does not render many tangible benefits, Paris said her greatest motivation and enjoyment in cheerleading is generated by her admiration towards her fellow cheerleaders who have advanced to higher levels. The levels are determined by the limits and capabilities each girl manifests in stunting and tumbling. Paris, in level four, said she hopes to accomplish higher levels in the future.

“There are some teams that are in levels five and six, and I really look up to them because they’re really good and serve as great role models,” Paris said. “Since I joined somewhat late compared to most people, I know that I likely will not reach that level, but I still love to watch them which motivates me to want to win and go to big competitions.”

Their dedication to a seemingly thankless sport awards each of the girls with a sense of community as they decide to further their passion.

“I’ve been doing it so long, and I love the environment,” Schuster said. “It drives you to be a better person because you form bonds with all the athletes and coaches. It’s just a great way to get to know more people and do something you love in the process.”