Archive for Thursday, February 26, 1998


February 26, 1998


— Four Lawrence High School students and two Baldwin High School students are members of a 25-member national champion cheerleading squad.

In cheerleading, there is no such thing as overenthusiasm, especially with nine consecutive national championship trophies on your team's wall.

``It's all out with this team,'' said Alyssa Hill, a 16-year-old Lawrence High School sophomore and one of 25 members of the Pro Cheer All-Star cheerleading squad.

Alyssa is one of four LHS students and two Baldwin High School students who are members of the elite squad.

Pro Cheer has won all nine of the national competitions it has entered, including five with the National Cheerleaders Assn. (NCA) and four with the Universal Cheerleaders Assn. (UCA).

The team is made up of 10 boys and 15 girls from 17 Kansas City-area high schools.

Its coach, Jeff Davis, is a former Kansas University yell leader and coach, and Kansas City Chiefs yell leader.

``Pro Cheer is a total program,'' Davis said. ``We try to teach life skills as well as technical skills used in the routines.''

Pro Cheer, which holds practices twice a week at Go For the Gold Gymnastics in Riverside, is seeking to win two more national championships in the next few weeks.

The team leaves today for Dallas for the NCA competition, which will air at a future date on the USA television network. The team will return on Monday.

On March 11, the team will head to MGM studios in Orlando, Fla., where it will compete in the UCA championships, which will air on ESPN.

``I never realized how big of a deal (Pro Cheer) was,'' said Jesse Peterson, an LHS junior and member of the team.

The squad conducts four routines during its performance: An opening stunt with tumbling, a cheer, a dance with stunts and more tumbling, and a closing, said team member Kim Heck, 15, a sophomore at Baldwin High School.

The performance lasts about 2 1/2 minutes.

That's only an instant compared to the hundreds of hours the team members spend practicing and training.

``A lot of people think cheerleading doesn't take much work,'' Jesse said. ``What we do is a whole year's worth of work in 2 1/2 minutes.''

Nearly all members of Pro Cheer have backgrounds in gymnastics and dance.

All love to perform in front of an audience.

Julia Pagano, 16, an LHS junior and member of the school's pom squad, said she spends 35 to 40 hours a week practicing and keeping in shape through running and lifting weights.

She said that it's all worth it when she performs.

``You finally get to show people what you've been working on,'' she said. ``Usually, the audience knows that and it's fun.''

Seventy-five percent of Pro Cheer members go on to cheer at the college level, Davis said.

Some also are lucky enough to obtain cheerleading scholarships, which usually pay for part, but not all, college costs. Kansas University doesn't offer cheerleading scholarships.

Amber Rhea, 17, a Baldwin High School senior and member of the team, is one of the likely candidates for a scholarship.

Amber is a two-time champion in the ``partner stunt'' competition, in which she and a male yell leader perform stunts.

``I'd like to go to the University of Louisville in Kentucky,'' she said. ``The Pro Cheer level helps you with college.''

Team member Samantha Sturdevant, an 18-year-old a senior at LHS, said cheerleading at the Pro Cheer level isn't just about getting a crowd excited or performing good tumbles.

``You meet new people and you learn how to set goals,'' she said. ``And, you stay in shape.''

-- Mike Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is

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