story & photo
by Karen Koerner
Girls from 12 area teams dazzled a crowd with demonstrations of their jumps, tumbling moves, cheers and stunts Nov. 12 during the Southern New England Youth Cheerleading Competition held at the Waterford High School. Pyramids brought the loudest applause from the enthusiastic audience, as the girls built ever-higher pyramids in a demonstration of the strength, skill and confidence that cheer requires.
“These girls work hard,” said one parent, Ken Kelly, whose daughter Ava competed in the East Lyme junior competition. “They are real athletes.” The East Lyme Juniors brought home a fourth place trophy.
Exuberant supporters sported their team colors in each town’s section of the bleachers. They shouted encouragement to their favorite team, and the entire crowd cheered as each team performed a two-and-a-half minute routine designed to demonstrate their skills in partner stunts, pyramids, jumps, tumbling, motions, dance, and voices.
Teams are organized from the towns of East Lyme, Griswold, Groton/Mystic, Ledyard, Montville, New London, Norwich, Plainfield, Stonington, Waterford, Westerly, and Windham. Girls in first through eighth grade compete in four divisions, Mini for girls aged eight and under, Micro for those 10 and under, Junior for 12 and under, and Senior for those 14 and under. Large and small squads compete separately, said Michelle Canty, Cheerleading President for the Southern New England Youth Football Conference (SNEYFC), which organizes the competition. SNEYFC is funded and coordinated by participating towns to provide football for boys and cheer for girls.
“We start in August and we end in November,” Michelle said. All directors and coaches are volunteers, and the emphasis is on safety and sportsmanship as the girls also train for skills, strength, and the teamwork necessary to build themselves into pyramids, toss and catch each other, and to cheer their football teams. The annual Cheer Competition is the culmination of the season. “This is a fun event for the girls,” Michelle said. “They work very hard in rain and cold with football. This is a day for them to show off everything they’ve learned.”
Trophies were awarded for the top four places in each division. First place winners that day were: Mini Division Small Champion, New London; Mini Division Large Champion, Groton/Mystic; Micro Division Small Champion, Montville; Micro Division Large Champion, Groton/Mystic; Junior Division Small Champion, Stonington; Junior Division Large Champion, Groton/Mystic; Senior Division Small Champion, Montville; and Senior Division Large Champion, Griswold.