Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cheerleaders are ready to bring it on

Will compete at Disney World

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The Ecole Secondaire Oak Park High School cheerleading team will be flipping out at Walt Disney World in February -- flipping, jumping, dancing and cheering, that is.

And the world will be watching.

The 26-member Oak Park team will be among squads from 20 countries competing at the 2014 International Cheer Union (ICU) World School Cheerleading Championships, Feb. 8-9 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

It's mammoth event, by invitation only, that will be watched by millions of viewers as it is televised by ESPN and held at Disney World's Wide World of Sports Complex.

The Oak Park crew will encounter an electric atmosphere and elite level of competition.

"It's definitely the huge floor, the big lights, giant building, lots of people. This is like the Olympics for high school cheerleading," said Charwin Dahl, the team's coach for the past seven years and who is assisted by Mariell Barratt.

"It's the highest we could ever hope to compete."

The Oak Park team was invited after ICU officials, who had been monitoring Canadian teams in recent years, took note of the team's consistent success winning three provincial titles over the past four years.

The team received the invitation late last month and began planning with team members and their parents.

"I am so excited for this trip. I think we have a good chance and we're going to surprise a bunch of people," said Alison Zajac, 16, a Grade 11 student who also plays for the Raiders varsity girls basketball team.

"I think we'll be flashy but it will be our high energy that will get the crowd going. It would be like a dream come true if we even placed, but I'll be proud of our team no matter what we do. It's going to be an experience of a lifetime."

The team practises at 7 a.m. twice a week or more as many of the students participate in other school activities and sports after school.

"I can't say enough about the dedication of these girls and their coaches," said Ainsley McIntyre, who along with Beckey Quinn are the team's teacher supervisors.

Though they won't reveal any elements of their routine, Grade 12 team member Brooke Krost said their routine will bring out their Canadian roots.

"We're going to aim to be different and stand out from other teams. There's only a few teams that get invited from Canada," said Brooke, 17.

Brooke, Carol Teja, Cristina Gregory, Jennifer Fortier, Jillian Ford and Danae Kaita are in their third and fourth years with the team.

"It's an honour to be invited and to be competing against all of these other amazing teams," said Brooke.

On top of preparing a world-class cheer routine, the girls must fundraise like crazy. The trip is going to cost at least $1,500 per person. Right now, 18 of 26 team members have been able to make the financial commitment, but the team's goal is to raise $45,000 through donations, sponsorships and a fundraising social on Jan. 4 so everyone can go.

The competition has a long list of stringent rules, such as proper conduct before and after the performance to maintain the event's professional standard (points are deducted for over-celebrating).

Dahl said the routine will last two minutes, 30 seconds and consist of a cheer portion and a portion set to music.

"The routine we are putting together will definitely be different that what we normally compete with," Dahl said. "It's a very short turnaround time as well, so practices are very intense. The girls all want to go there and make an impression. I'm confident they can get it."

The team, which will be away from Feb. 5-10, will be staying at Disney World's All-Star Resort in the park.

If you want to help the Oak Park cheerleading team, email

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 A13

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