Competitive Cheer Squad Endures Ups and Downs

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER

Competitive cheerleading is a sport of highs and lows. One minute or round or competition, the athletes and fans are relishing a best-ever score. The next they are wondering what happened. The sport’s subjectivity, like that in figure skating and gymnastics, is often confusing, with fans wondering how a flawless routine can net the same score as another team’s mistake-laden performance.

Such was the case in the last two competitions for the Rockford varsity competitive cheer team. On Thursday, Feb. 12, the Rams were riding a high with a best-ever third round routine at the East Kentwood Invitational. On Saturday, Feb. 14, the Rams had some struggles in the same round and finished ninth out of 12 teams at the prestigious PR Cheer Tournament at the Delta Plex. The Rams’ 790.54-point total on Thursday was a school record. The Rams’ 755.02 Saturday was their lowest since before Christmas.

“A lot of it is the judging and [which teams are] there,” said Rockford assistant coach Mary Hurt, who also judges.

Team dynamics and the atmosphere of the venue make a difference, too. “It’s hit and miss with the atmosphere,” Hurt said. “The girls were so geeked on Thursday, but Saturday they were somber. They felt the warm-up area was too loud. The Delta Plex takes a lot out of you.” She added that many of the teams did not perform their best on Saturday.

The East Kentwood meet showcased the Rams’ abilities and what they can achieve this coming week with the post-conference meet Wednesday, Feb. 18 at home at 6 p.m. and the district competition at home on Saturday, Feb. 21.

“Thursday we had three fabulous rounds,” said Hurt. “It was the most remarkable, beautiful, incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I expect the girls to do that again. If the girls want it [at the post-conference meet], they can do it. We can be top three. Everyone in our conference has beaten everyone else at least once, and we’ve beaten everyone except East Kentwood.”

At East Kentwood, Rockford scored 225.8 points in round one, 243.64 in round two, and 321.1 in round three to finish second behind the host Falcons (808.17). The Rams’ third round looked perfect to the fans, but fell three-tenths of a point behind East Kentwood, who made many mistakes in the round but had some tougher skills.

On Saturday, the same first round netted the Rams 217.3 points, putting them in 10th place out of 12 teams. Only two of the competitors scored more points Saturday in round one than Rockford had scored two days before: early leader West Ottawa (231.3) and eventual winner and top-ranked Rochester (230.7).

“A lot of coaches were unhappy after round one. Scores were low. The judges were being very conservative,” explained Hurt.

The Rams’ round two score of 242.32 was the sixth best for the competition, but it was seven points below their school record of 249.98 set a week earlier at the Oiler Invitational in Mount Pleasant. The reward Saturday was a move to seventh position with one round to go. Although many stunts went well in the final round, miscues dropped the Rams to ninth.

At the junior varsity level, Rockford finished third at the Delta Plex behind Rochester and West Ottawa. On Thursday, the junior varsity beat out Hudsonville and the Falcons. The freshmen also placed third Saturday, behind Rochester and Grandville.

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