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Competitive cheerleading kicks off in New Brunswick

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Inside the Moncton Coliseum on Saturday was a sea of colour, sparkles and loud music as the first cheerleading competition kicked off the start of a new season.

“Well it took a lot of time and a lot of hard effort,” said nine-year-old Reegan Fisher.

In total, 58 teams from across the Maritimes were in attendance.

For many, it marked the start of the year to come, but the stakes were high for a handful of teams who were looking to secure their spot at the World Championships.

“Five of them are competing for the qualification today and we’re allowed to qualify up to four teams,” said ExpoFest Productions owner, Laura Mar.

Halifax Cheer Elite president and head coach, Jill Turner said Saturday marked the start of their 21st season and although it was the first competition, it brought a lot of pressure.

“It’s kind of like where you have to get the jitters out, but also do our very best at the same time. So it’s really exciting,” she said.

“The kids have worked really hard up until this point, putting in extra practices. The families are so supportive, getting them there and doing what they need to do to have the athletes ready.”

Halifax Cheer Elite had 13 teams competing on Saturday.

“We’re hoping to get the bids for the world championships, but what we hope the most is just that the kids do their best and have fun,” said Turner.

“That’s all we really care about.”

While competition remained front and centre, for the athlete’s the sport means so much more than winning or losing.

Twelve-year-old Addison Dykens has been cheerleading for six years and she says she’s made a lot of friends through the sport.

“I really like the energy and everybody on my team is really encouraging and I just feel really safe when I’m with them,” she said.

At 15-years-old, Morgan Cox and Ava Woodman say cheerleading is a huge part of their lives and they’re recommend it to anyone who’s interested.

“I haven’t done any other spot where the practices are also fun and like all our teammates, it’s just so good,” said Cox.

Woodman added, “There’s also a spot for everyone. It’s so inclusive, very very welcoming. At Empire we have gymnastic programs, we have ninja programs, we have all of our cheerleading, we have day camps, it’s amazing.”

Officials say the packed coliseum is a testimony to the sports growth across the Maritimes.

“Cheerleading itself has seven different levels,” said Mar.

“Levels 1 though 7 and the first 29 teams today are all level 1, so you’re talking about the growth of cheerleading and how big it is, how popular it’s becoming, for over half the event to be level one that gives you an indication of how many new athletes are being introduced to the sport every year.”

She adds that between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and even Newfoundland there are at least 20 different events that teams can compete in throughout the season.

Turner says she’s also noticed the sport growing.

“We were one of the first programs around here and we used to compete in high school gymnasiums and now you can’t even fit our program in a high school gymnasium, so it’s grown a tremendous amount and it’s something we’re really proud of,” she said.

While the focus was on the athletes on Saturday, the event did involve everyone who was in attendance from family members to fans.

Spectators were encouraged to cheer, dress up and an award was even given out for Best Fan in the Stands.

“Typically, you’d think the cheerleaders are the one’s supporting other teams, so in competitive cheerleading the role is totally reversed right? Their fans are coming to cheer them on while they’re competing and I love the energy that it brings,” said Mar.

“The parents are so great, the fans are fantastic, it’s a great feeling.”

Officials say at the end of the day, the biggest goal of this first competition was for kids to do their best and have fun. Everything else that comes with the sport, like world championships and life-long friendships, is just a bonus.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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