WINDSOR, N.S. - It took a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. But they made it.
The Integrity Cheer Empire (ICE) cheerleading team sent their first group ever to the International Cheer Union World Championships in Orlando, Florida.
Chris Cunningham, All Star Director and Head Coach, said it was a huge milestone for ICE.
“Going to the ICU World Championships, you have to be awarded a bid, and there aren’t a lot of those on the East Coast,” Cunningham said, adding that the team was determined to make it to Worlds this year, training all through summer, with many of the athletes new to the level.
They were awarded an at-large bid at a New Brunswick event and again at the Cheer Expo Nationals in Halifax, where they achieved one of the highest level five scores and awarded a partial-paid bid - which means their registration fee to the ICU Worlds was covered.
The athletes ranged in age from 14 to 30.
“They didn’t expect to be awarded funds, it is a huge privilege,” he said. “This team competed wonderfully all season, upping their skillset, adding difficulty at every competition we attended.”
At the World Championships, they faced 39 other teams in their division. It would be their biggest challenge yet.
“In practice, they started with 18 deductions and then 16, and the next run they needed to be less than that,” he said. “Before we left for worlds, we had our deductions down to the single digits.”
The team also got some brand new uniforms and swag from Pro Cheer Uniforms, which they debuted at Worlds.
“The kids felt like rock stars,” he said.
“During their run, they went out there, hit the mat, and had their best routine of the season,” he said. “They ended up with the lowest number of deductions to date. It was awesome.”
ICE placed in 20th in their division - a huge achievement for their first time at the event.
Cunningham said being in Orlando was a great team-building experience, giving the athletes a chance to practise and improve their skills, but also to get to know each other better and form tight bonds.
Cunningham said the goal for next season is to do even better.
“You figure out where you sit in the world and then you pick away at it, the next year can we hit 15, and the year after that maybe 13,” he said. “To place top 20 the first time out and represent Nova Scotia so well, what an accomplishment.”
“I’m so proud of them,” he added.
What it was like
Jalisa Beals-Flyer, ICE athlete:
“It was an amazing experience, something every cheerleader dreams of doing. I was so proud to be a part of this team this year. Being the first team from the Valley to attend and being able to represent ICE from Nova Scotia was something I will never forget.”