Cheerleaders Take Over Six Flags for Competition
By Office of Communication
Posted on April 23, 2012, April 23, 2012

Ebony Harris was well aware of the expression "a deer caught in headlights" but confessed to having never actually seen such a look on a person - until Saturday, shortly before her cheerleading squad took the stage in front of hundreds of screaming people in the Music Mill Amphitheater at Six Flags Over Texas. She saw fear on the faces of allof her cheerleaders.

Not a good time to get the jitters, especially for a squad that had traveled all the way from Somerville, TN., to compete in the American Cheer Power competition, which assembles some of the best school and recreation cheer and dance teams in the region, including several from Arlington. (One team was even from Australia).

Thankfully, by the time the girls reached the stage, "they found some nerves somewhere," said Harris, the cheer coach at Fayette Ware High School, and turned in a near flawless routine.

Nerves were everywhere Saturday as 135 schools competed in the competition that had cheer and dance teams with members as young as five and as old as 18.

There were many different divisions and various cheering degrees of difficulty, as some teams tossed their mates high in the air, spun them around and performed multiple backflips.

Watching the competition quickly dispels the notion that cheerleading isn't a sport with top-notch athletes.

"Cheerleading is very athletic," said Danny Boze, the public relations director for American Cheer Power. "People don't realize how athletic until they come to something like this and see what kind of physical activities these girls are pulling off."

It shows in the sport's popularity. When American Cheer Power first started the competition attracted about 30 teams. It's four times that now.

"We actually have a cut off," said Boze. "That goes to show you how big it's become."

Especially in Texas.

"That's why this is such a great venue," he said of Six Flags Over Texas. "We're competing right down the road from Dallas, which practically invented cheerleading. It's such a big deal there. You've got the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and all that. You've got the Cowboys Stadium right here in Arlington. It's just crazy."

No wonder Amanda Christensen, a coach at Express Cheer in Frisco, brought her squad, some members as young as five with backpacks larger than their bodies.

"We don't get into anything that heavy at this age but the basics of cheering and tumbling," Christensen said. "This is where they learn whether they want to really do it long term or not."

Even before they knew where they would place at the evening awards, Harris and her crew from Somerville had already mentioned to her team the intention of bringing them back.

"This has been such a great experience for these girls," she said. "They just came alive out there. They got over their nervousness and just killed. We'd love to come back and do even better next year."

By Ken Perkins

Cheerleaders Take

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