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CTY cheers06p Sparks Held up by their Sparks teammates are, from left,  Alvin Gibson, Izzie Vandyke, and Kayliegh Long, all of Toledo, at the Greater Midwest Cheer and Dance Expo at SeaGate Convention Centre on Sunday. The Sparks team, like all the competitors, performed in front of 2,000 spectators.
Held up by their Sparks teammates are, from left, Alvin Gibson, Izzie Vandyke, and Kayliegh Long, all of Toledo, at the Greater Midwest Cheer and Dance Expo at SeaGate Convention Centre on Sunday. The Sparks team, like all the competitors, performed in front of 2,000 spectators.
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Published: Monday, 1/7/2013

Cheerleaders compete with style, acrobatic stunts

Winning teams earn berth for Greater Midwest U.S. finals

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER

She performed cartwheels, did back flips, and danced in front of 2,000 cheering fans.

When the cheerleading performance ended, an excited 6-year-old Sydnie Schoch ran into the waiting arms of her grandmother Cindy Taylor.

“I love seeing her perform with all the other kids,” Ms. Taylor of Toledo said. “She used to be quite shy.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Greater Midwest Cheer and Dance Expo

De’Janay Gary, 10, is held aloft by Winterfield Venture Academy teammates from left, Whitney Bankston, 13, Miyon Mickles, 10, and Jaiden Taylor, 14. De’Janay Gary, 10, is held aloft by Winterfield Venture Academy teammates from left, Whitney Bankston, 13, Miyon Mickles, 10, and Jaiden Taylor, 14.
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There was nothing shy about the shrieks of joy coming from her granddaughter, also of Toledo, and other members of the Toledo-based CheerWorks Sparks cheerleading team as it celebrated its first-place victory at the Greater Midwest Cheer and Dance Expo. Sunday’s event was at the SeaGate Convention Centre in Toledo.

CheerWorks Sparks won in the 6-to-8-year-old bracket.

About 1,000 cheerleaders, ranging in age from 5 to 18 participated. Most teams were from Ohio.

The action was different from what is seen on the sidelines of a high school football game. It was more like watching an Olympic sports event crossed with a dance-off, said Teresa Barbiere of Cincinnati, co-owner with her husband, Paul, of the Greater Midwest Cheerleading Expo.

At stake for the participants is a chance to win a bid to compete in the Greater Midwest Cheerleading U.S. finals in Indianapolis. Winners at the Toledo event will have their costs reduced to participate at the higher level.

Most performances were accentuated with quick dance steps and acrobatic tumbles and back flips. Scores were based on several factors, including teamwork and successful completion of routines.

“It’s such a rush,” said 17-year-old Brandon Oney of Columbus, who performed with Cheer Force One of Columbus. “You just go out there and give it your all.”

Teammate Taylor Hammond, who started cheerleading when she was 4 years old, said she enjoys the challenge of completing a successful routine. “You have to mentally and physically prepare before you go out there,” said Taylor, 14, of Columbus. “I tell myself, ‘ It’s mind over matter. I love the sport of cheerleading — it’s everything I do.”

Alonzo Lewis of Toledo watched shyly from behind a set of bleachers as he waited for the team of his 16-year-old daughter, Oliva Hoffman, Top Notch Cheer of Fremont, to perform.

“I’m just getting the hang of this,” admitted Mr. Lewis, who started attending his daughter’s competitions two years ago.

Kayla Knight, 9, of Toledo, is prepped for the performance by Megan Richardville, 17, of Walbridge, a fellow member of the Ohio Elite All Stars. Kayla Knight, 9, of Toledo, is prepped for the performance by Megan Richardville, 17, of Walbridge, a fellow member of the Ohio Elite All Stars.
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His daughter, who lives in Toledo, started cheerleading six years ago, but Mr. Lewis initially didn’t realize how committed she was to the sport. Oliva’s team competed in a state finals event in 2012, he said.

“She was always jumping around the house when she was small,” Mr. Lewis said. “We were just looking for a way to channel that energy in a positive way.”

Competitive cheerleading has helped his daughter make friends, he said. He was surprised to learn that college scholarships are available for those involved in cheerleading. “That put me on board, literally,” Mr. Lewis said. “Plus, all that time she puts into practicing and competing keeps her away from the boys — and for a father, that’s the bottom line.”

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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