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Cheer team is strong, together and primed



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The cheer team is together at last and ready for the competitive season ahead, with plenty of dedication and practices needed. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
December 14, 2011 - Winter season sports have started up, but it's not all about balls, sticks and hoops.

After entertaining on the sidelinesduring football games, the Dragon competitive cheer team is performing for its own glory. Starting with a 25-squad tournament on Dec. 10, the cheer team is ready for another competitive season.

"We finished fifth in the state last year and we were regional champions, so it's fair to say we left last season with high expectations," said Head Coach Nancy DeAvila. "We had quite a few seniors graduate, but not significant in comparison to the number of girls on our team. There are 22 returners, an even bigger team and our preseason expectations have been lived up to, if not surpassed.

DeAvila said this is probably the most prepared group for week one that we've ever had in terms of how far along in the material we are. The same is true for our overall conditioning.

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Competitive cheer is much different than what audiences are used to seeing during football games. There is no music in Michigan competitive cheer. There are three rounds in a cheer competition, which showcase different skill sets of the team.

The first showcases jumps, though it also shows how the squad is able to voice their cheer and be creative while in motion. The second is called the skill cheer and, according to DeAvila, is what separate Michigan cheer from other areas of the country.

"This round really shows off their athleticism, as the squad will be required to perform five skills within the cheer," she said. "They have to show off jumping, flexibility, tumbling and others. This includes doing team switch splits, three tumbling skills, standing back-tucks, a standing back hand spring and a back walkover.

"I really think that being able to put 16 girls on the floor and have everyone do that together at the same time really sets Michigan apart. Our concentration on athleticism separates us."

The third skill required concentrates on tumbling, stunts and more acts typically associated with cheer squads.

As far as working together, DeAvila said that cheer is 100 percent a team sport, and the girls have grown closer during the preseason. This includes two freshmen who are truly holding their own at the varsity level, she said, and a number of newcomers who are former gymnasts.

The team has adopted a new training regimen this year that DeAvila called rigorous. After the 2010 season, she decided to include training and the work has paid off. Including the football season, the cheer squad has been working and training since May and the squad is about as primed as they can be, she said.

"If these girls perform as well as they have in practice they should have a lot of success," said DeAvila. "We're extremely motivated and we're looking forward to the first competition, which should serve as a good indicator of where we are at the start of the season.

"The goals set by us are by no means out of reach."

DeAvila is in her seventeenth year of coaching.

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