ATHABASCA – Like every other sports team across the land, the pandemic has not been kind to the cheerleading teams from Edwin Parr Composite School, but both the junior and senior high teams managed to make strong comebacks and are now off to provincials in Edmonton this week.
Harry Ainley School will host both the Alberta Schools Athletic Association High School Provincials and the Alberta Cheerleading Association’s Elementary and Junior High Provincials April 8-9.
Coach Wanda Semashkewich said it has been a tough couple of years for cheer.
“It was like we started new again,” she said April 3. “Losing the two years of not having cheer, it was tough. Coming back into it a lot of girls lost all their muscle mass, their strength, and there were just a lot of elements lost as well. And it's been tough.”
With COVID restrictions in place, teams were allowed to practice, she said, but didn’t compete against other schools. Then someone would get sick, and would have to quarantine, so rarely did the whole team get to practice together. Despite those challenges, the team still placed first in a Stony Plain competition earlier this year and then placed third at another competition in Edmonton to earn their spot at provincials.
Semashkewich said they worked hard to get their routine down, which includes a minute-long cheer to start off and to bring the crowd along. Various stunts, jumps and lifts are judged for coordination and timing
“That's pretty crucial to making sure everything falls into place there,” she said. “Our pyramid is the whole team doing stuff at the same time and then our dance is the ending of our routine and it's a pretty solid dance, I have to say,” she said, adding they’ve gone over the scoresheets from each competition and have been working to improve their routines in preparation.
In the days leading up to the competition, her biggest job is going to be getting the girls calm and relaxed, she said.
“These last few weeks, we've been trying to improve our routine to make it stronger for the judges. So, I’m just trying to get them mentally prepared for that going into provincials because it's always nerve-wracking,” said Semashkewich.
“I have to say, with all the obstacles and everything that we've had to overcome these last couple years, I'm very, very proud of my team. They've come a long way. We've had a lot of hiccups, but, you know, in the end, they always seem to pull through.”