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New squad takes title at Cheer for a Cure competition

Date: 11/16/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW -- Over the weekend of Nov. 7 and 8, two great events occurred -- a local Cheer for a Cure event raised funds to help fight breast cancer and Longmeadow's youth cheerleading squads earned some validation.

Jenna Maloni of West Springfield put together the first ever Western Massachusetts Cheer for a Cure event in honor of her mother. Cheerleading squads from around the region came together to participate in the competition but only one squad came out on top -- Longmeadow's junior girls.

"This is only the second year of the program for juniors," Cheerleading Coordinator Jess Roy said.

The junior squad is made up of fifth and sixth graders. Roy took over the youth cheerleading program two years ago and said that back then, the squads were in rough shape. "No one really took us seriously," she said. "With this win, now they do."

The girls performed a two minute, 30 second routine at Cheer for a Cure, which involved stunting, gymnastics and cheering. They had performed their first exhibition ever on Oct. 23. A pee-wee squad made up of third grade girls also competed, coming in third place.

"This was the first time competing for both squads," Roy stated. "The girls love it. Winning was just icing on the cake."

Aya Pelcher, 12, who is in her fifth year of cheerleading, also won an individual award at the competition. She was named best cheerleader in her division.

"Ever since I was little, I always looked up to cheerleaders," Pelcher said. She added that her favorite parts of cheering are the stunting and the teamwork. Pelcher is often on top of stunt work, but she said it's not scary -- "the harder it is, the funner it is," she explained.

She added that she was "shocked and speechless" when she won the best cheerleader award.

"I think their heart is what set them apart," Roy said of her squads. "They really wanted it. They worked hard, they put in extra practices ... All the girls [on the different squads at the competition] were phenomenal, but our routine was flawless."

Roy works as part of a team of six to coach the junior girls. The other coaches are Kaitlyn Foley, Rachel Fearn, Bonnie Shallbetter, Brittni Peck and Hayley Olmsted. Their regular season begins in August, and all girls of the appropriate age are invited to try out -- Roy said no cuts are made and each girl plays to her individual strengths.

The spring season will begin in February, which Roy said is a great time to be introduced to cheerleading.

"Go do it. It's really fun," Pelcher advised girls who may be considering trying cheerleading. "You won't regret it. It's awesome."