BUTLER — It’s been a busy and successful summer for Eastside’s cheerleading squad.
As a group, they achieved several honors. Cheerleaders also stood out in individual competition.
The squad placed first in the “game day” category at the Steuben County 4H Fair in Angola, competing against West Noble and Prairie Heights.
The cheerleaders earned “superior” recognition at a Universal Cheerleading Association summer camp at Eastside, and have been invited to perform at halftime of the Citrus Bowl football game Jan. 1 in Orlando, Florida.
Individually, senior Summer Dircksen placed second in the jump competition in Angola, competing against 15 other girls in her age group. Sophomore Emma Miller placed first in the jump competition against about 10 other girls in her age group.
At the three-day UCA camp, cheerleaders learned three quarter cheers, two halftime routines, six sideline chants and several new stunts.
“We also spent time setting squad and personal goals, doing team bonding activities, learning about their roles as cheerleaders and playing games,” explained Eastside cheerleading coach Arielle Graber. “It’s a lot of material packed into three days. It’s awesome to watch how much the girls bond too. Camp is tough, but they love it and can’t wait to do it again next summer.”
At the UCA camp, six cheerleaders were selected as All-American Cheerleaders by UCA instructors. With this designation, Dircksen, Miller, junior Abby Yeager, sophomores Audrey Roose and Rowan Tinker and freshman Cierra Holcomb have been invited with hundreds of cheerleaders around the country to participate in the New Year’s Day parade in London, England.
To earn All-American Cheerleader, participants are selected based on a strict scoring of jumps, a cheer and a dance, Graber said.
Tryouts for the season began in April, and cheerleaders participated in open gyms throughout May. Conditioning and practice took place several times each week throughout June, Graber explained.
Summer practices began in July from 8 a.m. to noon with sideline review, conditioning and tumbling. The competition squad continued work for an additional hour to prepare for the “game day” competition.
The competition squad was selected from stunt groups, enthusiasm, dedication and the ability to learn quickly, Graber said.
“It took a great deal of mental toughness on top of physical strength to make our competition stunts hit after practicing and conditioning for four hours prior,” Graber said. “It was a huge learning curve for the girls.
“They’ve learned how to persevere and the true meaning of endurance,” she added. “Each of them is so much stronger than they give themselves credit for.”
In addition to the individual honors, Graber said coaches from other schools liked what they saw. “Aside from the traditional ribbon, certificate and trophy honors, we also had multiple other coaches reach out to me following the competition and express how blown away they were by the girls’ talent and enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s such a proud coach moment to see these girls finally being recognized for their hard work.”