For the love of the cheer

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

The 2016 International Cheer Union World Cheerleading Championships are coming up quickly, and for Wilfrid Laurier cheerleaders Marley Gray and Jordyn Witmeyer, it’ll be all about making new friendships.

The two Hawks, along with Laurier alum Bailey Sprout and Courtney Whelan, were selected to represent Team Canada at the event held at Disneyland from April 21–22. This is the first time that both women have made the national team.

“I’m very excited about it,” Witmeyer said. “It’s something a lot of cheerleaders aspire to do for the rest of their life.”

Witmeyer and Gray were two of over 150 applications for the team submitted via YouTube video. The applications were in early January for judging, with the decision made near the end of the month. Both tried out for the all-girls premier team consisting of 29 cheerleaders.

Gray and Witmeyer were two of 29 cheerleaders chosen along with Whelan and Sprout. Gray said athletes can try out for both teams, but choosing the all-girl premier team was a better fit for her.

“You can try out for whichever team you want and since I’m on Laurier cheer, which is all girls, it fit better for me to try out for the all-girl premier team just because I haven’t really had any experience with co-ed stunting,” she said. “So the all-girl was the clear choice.”

The two both started cheerleading at a young age. Witmeyer fell in love with it after her neighbour invited her to go with her to try out. They both made it and were put on a team together — and that was all it took.

Gray made the switch to cheerleading when she was 11-years old, when a professional team showed up to her gymnasium to use the facilities. She did cheerleading for two years, and then picked it back up when she came to Laurier.

But preparation is tough. Witmeyer said that cheerleading is much different than a sports game that usually takes an hour. Cheerleading only gets two and a half minutes to perform their routine.

“The routine is a lot,” she said. “It’s very intense for 2.5 minutes [and] you have to have the endurance to get through it.”

Witmeyer said she also has to continue training because out of the 29 women selected, five of them are alternates. The cheerleaders still have to earn their spot on the team as soon as they get there. Currently, Witmeyer, Gray, Sprout and their other teammate in their stunt group train two times a week to practice their elite stunts as well as coupling.

“Cheerleading comprises of a couple components — stunts, pyramids, coupling, jumps and dance. Stunts are a big part of it,” she said. “We’ve been practicing our elite stunts and we’ve been going to work on coupling as well which are the kinds of things we do.”

But their goal is the same — to make life-long friends.

“I am going in hoping for a great experience which I know it’s going to be. I just can’t wait to meet everyone on the team and make so many new friendships and relationships with people who are going to be hopefully life-long friends,” Gray said. “I think that is one of my expectations — to come out with a new family.”

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