Local cheer squads dominate Region IV competition

Chugiak wins grand championship while Wolves earn a pair of titles


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Chugiak’s Stacey Allum is held high during Chugiak’s performance at the Region IV competitive cheer competition at Chugiak High. The Eagle River Wolves pose after taking home two trophies. Chugiak captain Shawnee Wackerman reacts with teammate Holly Hanson, right, after Chugiak was named Grand Champions.

STAR PHOTO BY MATT TUNSETH

Third time’s a charm.

Chugiak’s co-ed large varsity competitive cheer team won its third consecutive Region IV cheer grand championship on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Chugiak High with a stunning array of aerial stunts that left team members pumping their fists in celebration.

“We’ve never done that good before!” said junior captain Shawnee Wackerman after the team earned a standing ovation for its electric performance.

No other team in the competition came close to Chugiak’s powerful squad, which this year includes six male athletes.

Wackerman said having the boys out there enabled the team to pull off maneuvers that simply wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

“It makes a big difference,” she said.

The Chugiak football team’s failure to make the state playoffs proved to be a boon for the cheer team, as nose tackle Jacob Granado and linebacker Justin Benzel were able to get in enough practices to join the team in time for Regions.

With his Mohawk haircut and bulging biceps, Granado wasn’t the prettiest cheerleader in the competition. But he might have been the most enthusiastic, pumping his fist in celebration after pulling off a flawless back flip near the end of Chugiak’s performance.

“I’m more focused on wrestling and football right now, but this is a lot of fun,” Granado said.

It should come as no surprise that athletes from other sports excel at competitive cheer, said Chugiak coach Joyce Davis.

“I look for athletes on my team,” she said.

And she’s not just talking about the boys. A National Guardsmen, Davis runs tough, no-nonsense practice sessions that push her team’s limits.

“The last two weeks we’ve been practicing every day,” Wackerman said.

Wackerman said some practice sessions last as long as five hours.

Davis said that’s because she’s trying to remove the stigma attached to competitive cheer that it’s not a “real” sport.

“We’re trying to build a program here,” she said.

While neither of the area’s football teams had winning seasons this year, that’s not the case with the cheer teams. Eagle River also showed it has one of the state’s top programs by bringing home a pair of first-place trophies for winning both the varsity football cheer competition and the large varsity comp cheer title.

Like Chugiak, Eagle River has been practicing its routines since August, said co-head coach Stephanie Grout.

“Lots and lots of practice,” said Grout when asked how her team managed to bring home so much hardware.

Coach Melissa Brady said she had a huge turnout this season, which paid off with the school’s first-ever junior varsity team.

Having good numbers out for the program, she said, can only bode well for the future.

“I’m very excited about the program,” she said.

The Region IV championships weren’t the final event of the season for local cheer squads. On Saturday, Oct. 22, the Alaska Spirit Coaches Association will hold its 2011 ASCA Alaska State Cheer and Dance Competition beginning at 9 a.m. at South Anchorage High. In addition, the Mustangs plan — as they did last season — to attend the national championships in Florida in February.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

Local cheer squads dominate Region IV competition

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