Three Cheers for Cheerleaders!

Flying high with the Eaglecrest cheerleaders and their competitive sport.

Hansen-Vigil wouldn't validate the claim. "There are always going to be those people who say that kind of thing. But we had the routine. Even though we fell, we still had a tight routine. In the end, judges are going to judge you for what you do, not what you don't do."

While they get ready for the finals, Hansen-Vigil doesn't let her girls watch the competition. This is unique, because all of the other squad members, like the teenage girls that they are, continually gaze at their competitors. They walk together in pairs, trade glances at other girls, look back as they pass each other. Instead, the Eaglecrest team members stay off by themselves, in an area where no else will bother them.

Just as she does before every performance, Hansen-Vigil leads the team through a regimen of preparation exercises. First the girls gather around a boombox, lying on their backs -- right foot over left, hands entwined on their chests -- close their eyes, and visualize their entire routine as the music plays. This causes stares and freaky glances from girls on the teams that have already been eliminated.

Anthony Camera
Coach Gwen Hansen-Vigil keeps her squad on firm footing.
Anthony Camera
Coach Gwen Hansen-Vigil keeps her squad on firm footing.

Next, Hansen-Vigil hands out pieces of paper with the numbers 1 through 100 written on them in random order. She'll call out a number -- eleven, in this case -- and the girls are to locate it on the page, then find the rest of the numbers in sequence. As they count, whispering the numbers to themselves, they are focused and concentrated, oblivious to the noisy chaos that swirls around them.

When they are finished counting, they stretch, breathe and walk through the routine.

Then they are ready to perform.

For the finals, Cherry Creek's team cheered well but out of sync, and they visibly wobbled the final stackup. Standley Lake made the fatal mistake of dropping a flyer, and the immediate body language of the team suggested they had dropped the entire world.

Fruita Monument, however, put together a clean, crowd-rousing routine, one that the Eaglecrest girls heard but never saw.

As Eaglecrest circles up at the tunnel entrance to the floor, Jo Jo is still pacing around the periphery of the group, kicking her knees up and tapping them, bouncing around. When their team is finally announced, the girls hold hands and wait.

Two of the squad's cheerleaders, dressed in their black, red and white uniforms, walk out to the center stage at a determined slow pace and put their Eaglecrest signs at either edge of the mat. To the cheers of an eager crowd, the two girls walk all the way back to the tunnel entrance, meet up with the rest of their team and walk all the way back to the mat. If they are trying to show that they own the floor, they're doing a good job. The Fruita Monument girls, dressed in all-blue uniforms, cling to the side of the Coliseum and watch closely. Their made-up faces say "Get on with it."

Hansen-Vigil is up in the sound booth, getting ready to press the "play" button when her girls are ready.

The music is a blast of high-energy rock, punk and rap. A tease from a Nirvana grunge riff and a tease from Mötley Crüe's "Kick Start My Heart" blare the girls into formation. From the start, it's clear that they are tight. In the first major stunt, Jo Jo gets launched into the air, hits the zenith some fifteen feet above the mat, arches her back for effect, then drops back to earth. It's flawless. The crowd erupts with shrieks of approval.

A few seconds later, all four of the flyers are being held up by their respective tripods and, like tiny ballerinas balancing on the head of a pin, simultaneously bring their legs into a graceful arabesque. They hold their pose for a frozen second, and the educated crowd shouts its approval. From there, all four flyers jump from their perches, spin their bodies twice, and land in their teammates' arms.

Once everyone's feet are back on the mat, it's cake from here: a series of cheers and synchronized dancing. The rule book says performances with "provocative movements" will be docked at the judges' discretion. The closest Eaglecrest gets to this definition is in their dance sequence, when the girls line up, turn their right hips out toward the judges, then slap them twice and grunt twice in unison, military style. The move is quick and is not considered by any of the judges to be "provocative."

A male cheerleader from the University of Colorado squad who is watching the Eaglecrest performance takes notice of the girls' synchronization and sighs, "They're sooo awesome."

In the finale, the pyramid gets thrown up in a nanosecond and sticks cleanly. Jo Jo shares the top, stage left. Even though she had to wrap one ankle with extra tape, she shows no signs of weakness. The crowd is screaming like they are on fire. After the pyramid, the music ends, and the girls shout, "Eaglecrest!"

The girls dislodge and start jumping, cheering and crying on the mat as they wave to their parents, judges and friends. Hansen-Vigil comes running down from the booth. The Fruita Monument girls clap and offer a few compliments as the cheerleaders leave the mat in tears: "Good job, you guys! Good job!"

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help