By Matt Veno
Special to the Truro News
TRURO, N.S. – This time of year is like Christmas for athletes at Truro All-Star Cheer and Tumble.
Excitement hits a fever pitch around the Hubtown club as it readies itself to host its annual competition, the Central Nova Cheer Challenge, which is set for Saturday and Sunday at RECC. Only this year, with the club celebrating its 25th anniversary, the event is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever.
“Everybody is about three feet above the floor right now,” Lisa Yorke, the club’s manager, said.
It’s no wonder. With 111 teams and more than 1,500 athletes set to descend upon Truro, the event is the biggest in its three-year history and one of the largest competitions anywhere in the Maritimes. Those kinds of numbers also allow the event to offer teams qualifying spots for the International All-Star Federation (IASF) World Championships in Orlando, Fla., later this year, elevating it to one of the premier cheerleading competitions in Eastern Canada.
“We are the competition now,” Yorke said. “It’s growing momentum.”
The doors open at 8 a.m. each day and the cost is $10 per day or $20 for a weekend pass. Truro will have five teams competing with Truro Eclipse, in the Senior 4.2 Division, Truro Twisters (Junior 3), Truro Chill (Junior 2) and Truro Heatwave (Youth 1) all looking to have a strong showing on home turf. The club’s prep team, a squad of athletes training to join the competitive ranks, will also be hitting the floor for the first time this season.
The Cheer Challenge started in 2017 with 88 teams before expanding to 91 last year. There are several factors contributing to its rapid growth. Firstly, Truro’s central location in the Maritimes makes it a convenient spot for teams who will be travelling from Cape Breton, the South Shore of Nova Scotia and from across New Brunswick. The building of the RECC has allowed for larger events and the hard work and dedication from those at the club, along with the co-hosting Valley Cheer Athletics, has paid off.
Yorke said much of that labour has been made easier with officials and businesses in the area embracing the event.
“The town has really helped grow it because of all the support, it’s not just location,” Yorke said. “All of the hotels are booked and we’ve called all of the restaurants to let them know to have extra staff on because of all of the people that will be coming in.”
This will be the first year the competition has offered bids to qualify for worlds, which is a massive coup as the IASF only approves a certain number of competitions to offer them. Club owner Mary Gonzales and Megan Shepherd from Valley started the process nearly a year ago when they submitted an application. After the IASF was satisfied the event would meet its criteria, the application was approved in June. The event will be awarding a partially paid bid and two at-large bids, meaning the teams who win them will have to pay their own way.
“We are really proud of it and how much its grown and also how much the club is respected in the cheer community,” Yorke said. “It really gives us a sense that all of the hard work is paying off.”
It’s all motivating the athletes, who have been working hard to make sure they are ready when it’s time to hit the competition floor.
“We really want to show the other teams and all the spectators what we can bring to the table,” Brooke MacDonald, a 15-year-old Valley resident and member of Eclipse and Twisters, said. “Especially because we host it. We practice extra hard to up all of our past performances and show everyone we can run the competition both physically and figuratively.”
Based on their results so far this year, that’s a distinct possibility. Eclipse has claimed division titles in both of its previous events this season, along with a level title – awarded to the team with the highest score at each skill level, regardless of age group – and the best pyramid award last time out at the Cheer Blast Championships Feb. 2 and 3 at Halifax Exhibition Centre. Heatwave has a win and a runner-up finish while Twisters and Chill have yet to fail to earn a podium placing.
“We just need to work as a team,” MacDonald said. “The saying ‘you’re only as strong as your weakest link’ really stands true in this situation and we just need to work together and do what we practice for hours every week.”