The Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers cheerleaders have a lot to cheer about, and they do it better than any other cheerleaders in Canada.
Led by team captain Kelsey Boule, the 19-member squad won their division at the Canadian National Cheer & Dance Championships May 13 to 15 in Niagara Falls, Ont. The Panthers claimed the top spot in the small senior advanced division, despite strong competition and an injury to one of their own.
“I’m just really proud of them and all of their hard work,” said Lord Tweedsmuir vice-principal Cynthia Weldon, who chaperoned the team. “It’s great to have been part of the trip that put a national banner on our gym wall.”
The Panthers delivered two, 2.5-minute routines. In their final performance Sunday, Grade 11 student Alexandra Purgavie hyperextended her knee and had to hobble off the mat mid-routine. The rest of the team carried on with a flawless performance that earned them a championship trophy bigger than their smallest squad member.
Judges will take off points for mistakes, but not for injuries, and so Alexandra’s departure only motivated the Panthers to finish strong for her.
“When the girls came off the mat, they burst into tears because they knew this was the last time they were going to compete together,” says Loretta Scott, the team’s staff liaison. “Three of the cheerleaders are graduating this year, and one is struggling with a chronic injury and not able to come back next year.”
The squad has been practising together more than 12 hours a week since September, plus conditioning for several hours a week individually.
The Panthers were thrilled to win their division, but getting proof of their victory home – the trophy – was another challenge altogether. Initially, WestJet required the team to check the award as baggage because it was too big to qualify as a carry-on. But when a baggage handler indicated to team captain Kelsey Boule that it would be destroyed by the other suitcases in the luggage area, the cheerleaders convinced a plane steward to allow them to wrap the structure in their team jackets and stuff it into the overhead compartments.
The Canadian National Cheer & Dance Championships is the most prestigious cheer event in the nation, with more than 300 teams from Canada and the U.S. vying for a title.