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Cheer squad jumping for competition
Some local cheerleaders are doing their best to prepare for an important competition this month.
The Jump Up Elite Black Flames squad, a group of girls ages 12-18, will be competing in Phoenix on Feb. 20 in an event that is a qualifier for the U.S. Finals in Las Vegas in April.
The Black Flames squad is a part of Jump Up Gymnastics, a gym where local girls can come after school to participate in gymnastics, trampoline jumping or cheerleading.
According to head coach Elisabeth English, the girls of the Black Flames are highly experienced cheerleaders and have to compete for a spot on the team.
"They try out, and their age and skill level decides what team they get on. The younger team, Silver Rush, is for juniors age 7 to 14. There could be a 12-year-old that age-wise could be on the little team but skill-wise could be on the older team."
English said her girls are going to be ready for the competition.
"They do lots and lots of practice throwing stunts over and over again and working on the little things. We practice four days a week, and we've whipped them into pretty good shape. I'm very proud of them. They've come a long way."
English said previous competitions have helped mold and shape her girls.
"We have already been to two competitions, and we have scoresheets from both, so we can see exactly what needs to be tweaked and fixed."
English said she pushes her girls to do their best.
"The harder you are, the better the team you will have. If you sit back and let them do whatever they want, you won't ever get anywhere.
"Discipline is the biggest factor in our program. They may hate me for that hour and a half, and as they leave they might bicker, but the next day they are glad we pushed them hard because now they can do it, and they are grateful for it."
Stephanie Robison, 13, said she doesn't mind the hard work.
"I think it disciplines us and makes us a better team, and I think we are going to do pretty good," Robison said. "I think we are going to take home a few trophies, because we work together and are really close."
Mckenzie Miller, 12, says she can hardly wait for the competition. "I'm excited. We are going to do really well."
Lindsey Roy, 14, said practicing in the gym is vastly different than performing at a competition in front of a crowd.
"It is a huge adrenaline rush, and you use that pressure and perform at your best."
Erin Krizay, the assistant head coach, said she has watched the girls improve their skills over the past eight months.
"Oh yes, tremendously. You wouldn't believe how much progress they've made," Krizay said. "Their tumbling has gotten 10 million times stronger from where they started out because it takes a lot of upper-body strength and coordination."
Krizay is new to coaching.
"This is my first year coaching the all-star team. I used to cheer, so it's definitely weird being on the other side. I'm not the one performing, I'm here to perfect them and make them better. I'm really excited about the next couple of months."