Community invited to pre-camp performance this Friday
Traditional cheerleading began at the University of Minnesota in 1898, when male cheerleaders encouraged students to show their spirit at athletic events.
This model continued exclusively until the early 1990s, when all-star competitive gyms formed to highlight the athleticism of the cheerleader. Combining tumbling, stunting, and dancing, non-school teams began competing at the regional and national level, drawing more and more girls to the fast growing sport.
At Oak Ridge High School, cheerleaders were maintaining the traditional role, but found they were losing students to the competitive nature of the all-star gym.
During the past five years, Coach Christina Duncan has developed a school program that combines the traditional role of the cheerleader with a competitive edge.
“By combining sport and spirit, everyone wins,” Duncan said. “For the school, it provides more girls with a reason to stay connected to the school, and for the girls, it creates an opportunity for them to grow into strong independent young women with recognized skills.”
Each year a squad of 18–24 girls are chosen to represent Oak Ridge High School. During the summer, the squad takes a competitive routine to the Universal Cheerleading Camp. During fall and winter, the squad cheers at football and basketball games. In addition, they represent the high school at community and school events.
Although it makes for a long season, Senior Captain Courtney Cantrell loves the combination.
“When I was younger, I cheered at a competitive gym in Knoxville,” Cantrell said. “When I got to middle school, I loved sports and wanted to be at all the games, so I tried out for cheerleader. It quickly became evident that I couldn’t do both, and I chose to be a school cheerleader. I have been lucky that Oak Ridge offers a program that includes a competitive element similar to all-stars, while primarily allowing me to be an Oak Ridge Wildcat.”
It also makes for a skillful performance at ball games. During game breaks, you will see squad members being thrown in the air or flying across the floor doing intricate tumbling moves. Junior Lauren Dubose has some of the strongest tumbling skills on the team.
“Being able to master a tumbling pass or an individual skill is more fun when you can perform it in front of your peers,” she said.
Next week, the squad will attend UCA camp at the University of Tennessee. The team will have worked more than 60 hours to develop a 1.5-minute competitive routine that they take into the home pom competition as camp champs for the past five years. However, that title is not taken lightly.
Senior Sarah Boutwell explained: “Every year, we face Riverdale High School. They used to be camp champs, and we took the title from them. One year we beat them by a tenth of a point. So, every summer we try to better a routine that can beat Riverdale.”
The ORHS squad, along with the Jefferson Middle School and Robertsville Middle School cheerleaders, invites the public to attend a pre-camp exhibition performance featuring their home pom routine this Friday (July 19) at 6:30 pm at Wildcat Arena.