locker room

Showing their spirit

Midwest teams compete in national qualifier


By Matt “It’s MillerTime” Miller

Iowa’s cold winter weather has arrived, but cheerleading teams from across the Midwest have warm weather on their minds as they compete this weekend in the Universal Cheerleading Association’s (UCA) Hawkeye Regional this weekend at Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The competition serves as a national qualifier for a chance to head to Orlando, Fla., early next spring.

“The teams have put in long, hard hours of practice for this opportunity,” said Nichole Gould, owner of Apex Athletics Inc. in Johnston who is sending six teams to the competition. “We not only want to do well, but also receive a bid to Nationals.”

Up to 50 teams from across the Midwest, including Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska, will showcase their skills in the Saturday, Dec. 12 event. UCA, the national organization, was founded in 1974 to provide high-quality educational training for college and high school cheerleaders through summer camps and clinics on college campuses. Teams will perform in front of three to five judges who will score them accordingly.

“Teams will showcase their routine and be judged by a standard score sheet,” said Ed Scholz, UCA state director for Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. “Each year the competition among teams continues to increase. This year won’t be any different.”

Over the past 20 years, Gould says the industry has involved into a competitive sport that has grown by leaps and bounds, although some say otherwise. The debate over cheerleading being an official sport continues. In 2003, the University of Maryland created the nation’s first college competitive cheer sport squad. Some say it was a way to get around Title IX, a law preventing sex discrimination by schools that receive federal funds. Cheerleading is not a recognized sport by the NCAA.

I definitely believe it’s a sport,” Gould said. “Cheerleading involves a lot of teamwork — more than other sports I know. If one person is gone, it really affects the whole team.”

While the debate continues, one thing is for sure — the spirit industry is attracting more people.

“Cheerleading is up and coming in the Midwest,” Scholz said. “Each year teams try and push the boundaries for new and innovative stunts.”

Not surprising, this year the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research in North Carolina published its 26th annual report on high school and college cheerleading mishaps, stating that cheerleading is the most dangerous female sport.

“Cheerleading can be very dangerous because athletes are susceptible while performing an array of stunts,” Scholz said. “Teams and individuals have to take precautions each time they’re on the floor.”

Gould, who has more than 10 years of cheerleading experience with seven of those in All-Star Cheerleading, says her most enjoyable moments are seeing her students succeed.

“Getting to know the kids and seeing them do things they haven’t done before is the most rewarding part of cheerleading,” she said.

When the lights come on and the cheerleaders take the stage, Gould says her team has to perform a top-notch routine to be selected to Nationals.

“The key to performing well is dedication in the gym,” she said. “The students put in a ton of work to get to this point. The chance to compete and hopefully win Nationals is won at practice, not at the competition.”


Locker Room note: The second annual Great Santa Run (5K run/walk) will take place Saturday, Dec. 12 at 9 a.m. Beginning at West Des Moines City Hall, 4200 Mills Civic Parkway. Registration is $20. Visit CV


Caption: Up to 50 teams will compete at this year’s Universal Cheerleading Association’s Hawkeye Regional in downtown Des Moines. Photo courtesy of UCA/Varsity

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