The atmosphere was electric at the Alberta Cheerleading Association’s annual Total Spirit Championships on the weekend.
Four local cheer squads were in the city to take part in the event, which was held at the West Edmonton Mall.
Considered to be one of the top cheer competitions in all of western Canada, the event welcomed literally hundreds of cheerleaders and their coaches, fans, friends and families.
Setting the event right in the middle of the country’s biggest shopping mall only added to the electricity of the day, as passing shoppers quickly became curious onlookers and, judging by the constant roar of the capacity crowd, cheer enthusiasts.
Making the trip from Athabasca were the Landing Trail Intermediate School Grade 4 and 5/6 teams, as well as Edwin Parr Composite’s junior and senior teams.
The size and scope of the event and the crowd weren’t enough to rattle the local athletes, however. At least, not those with nerves of steel like LTIS Grade 4 cheerleader Alicia Brost.
“I’m not nervous,” she said before her team performed. “It’s exciting.”
The LTIS teams competed early in the morning on Saturday, and they went up against each other in one of the event’s elementary divisions. Both teams took to the mat with confidence and enthusiasm and enjoyed the cheers of the crowd and their fellow athletes as they performed their complicated and daring routines.
When the judges’ marks were given, the Grade 4 team was in fourth place while their 5/6 counterparts were honored with the division championship.
Winning the trophy was the perfect way for the team to cap off their season, according to coach Leasa Lachance.
“It’s the biggest competition they go to, so winning it is a fairly big deal,” she said. “They’ve been working on (the routine) since September, every day. Everyone should be very proud of them.”
Though the LTIS kids had the rest of the day to explore the mall and enjoy the ongoing performances, the EPC athletes had to get themselves ready for their own turns on the mat later in the evening.
First up was the junior team, competing in the junior division with seven other teams. Though they didn’t place, they were still satisfied with their performance and showed their sportsmanship by cheering on their competitors.
“We couldn’t hear our music at the beginning, so the opening was a little off. It’s only because the crowd was so enthusiastic,” explained coach Barb Lachance. “That’s how it goes sometimes. They gave it their all and put their heart into it.”
Capping off the night from a local perspective was the EPC senior team, which competed in the senior small division. Up against nine of the best cheerleading teams in western Canada, they hit every mark and delivered perhaps their best performance of the season. When word came from the judges that they had earned fifth place, they were ecstatic.
“They are so proud of themselves. I think we exceeded our goal,” said coach Heidi Shopland. “They came out with really super high energy and confidence.”
The team’s other coach, Vanessa Olson, pointed out how the team had collected an impressive number of accolades this season, including winning the zone championship and a provincial bronze. That made their strong showing at the mall even sweeter.
“They’re definitely finishing on a high note,” she said.
At an event that was all about excitement, this community’s talented athletes provided plenty of it.