A cheer­lead­ing dream

Cheer­lead­ing Worlds a dream come true for Clarke’s Beach teen

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Clarke’s Beach’s Phoebe Wilkins re­cently ful­filled a life­long dream af­ter she com­peted at the USASF World Cheer­lead­ing Cham­pi­onships in Or­lando, Fla., April 24-26. Wilkins tested her skills against some of the best tal­ent the world has to of­fer and even met her cheer­lead­ing idol Carly Man­ning.

To the un­trained eye, cheer­lead­ing may seem like noth­ing more than cheers and flips.

How­ever, look closely and you’ll find a world of im­pres­sive ath­letes, in­tense train­ing and a ded­i­ca­tion un­like any other. It is a far cry from the “non-ath­lete” la­bel out­siders might place on them.

“I can see where they are com­ing from be­cause they don’t have a good per­cep­tion of what it is. They’ve never seen the all-star stuff,” said Clarke’s Beach’s Phoebe Wilkins. “The school stuff is great but it’s not near as in­tense as all-star cheer­lead­ing. It re­ally drives me though.

“I’ve been do­ing it for five years and I can’t get through my rou­tine, hit­ting all of my tum­bling with­out feel­ing like I’m phys­i­cally go­ing to die. The minute it starts, you’re do­ing hand­springs into a lay­out or some­thing. As soon as you land it, you have to run to your next spot and then pulling an­other back­flip.”

Phoebe, a level-5 cheer­leader, knows a thing or two about the sport. She knows the ded­i­ca­tion and train­ing it takes to be­come a high-level ath­lete. From learn­ing the art of tum­bling to stunt­ing, Phoebe has spent hours in the gym per­fect­ing it.

The 16-year-old re­cently re­turned from the United States All-Star Fed­er­a­tion (USASF) World Cheer­lead­ing Cham­pi­onships, com­plet­ing a dream she’s had since her train­ing started six years ago.

Trav­el­ling with St. John’s-based Max Force Ath­let­ics, Phoebe was in Or­lando, Fla., for the com­pe­ti­tion held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports com­plex April 24-26.

“It’s all sur­real,” said the As­cen­sion Col­le­giate stu­dent. “We kind of took over that whole place.”

An in­vite only event, Phoebe and her team re­ceived the of­fer af­ter a strong show­ing at this year’s Cheer-Expo Na­tional Cham­pi­onships in Hal­i­fax, N.S.

Fight­ing nerves

Per­form­ing on one of the big­gest cheer­lead­ing stages on the planet isn’t some­thing a teenager goes through ev­ery day.

“It was re­ally nerve wrack­ing be­cause you know all of th­ese amaz­ing cheer­lead­ers are watch­ing you and I just re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally ner­vous,” said Phoebe, daugh­ter of Peter Wilkins and Michelle Ma­honey-Wilkins.

That ini­tial feel­ing was there lead­ing up to hit­ting the mat for the first time.

For Phoebe, it didn’t last the en­tire com­pe­ti­tion or even through the open­ing per­for­mance.

“As you go through your warm-ups, which are seven min­utes maybe, and then you wait to go on the mat,” she said.

“Your per­for­mance is two min­utes and 30 sec­onds, that’s it. Once you get to your spot on the mat and the mu­sic turns on, ev­ery­thing turns off. You’re in mus­cle mem­ory mode and the ner­vous­ness goes away.”

Meet­ing her idol

When she talks about the worlds, Phoebe’s eyes light up and her hand ges­tures be­come more pro­nounced and ex­trav­a­gant.

It’s all sur­real. We kind of took over that whole place. Phoebe Wilkins

It is easy to tell she is still har­bour­ing en­ergy from the ex­pe­ri­ence. Some of that ex­cess en­ergy still cours­ing through her body comes from meet­ing her cheer­lead­ing idol, Carly Man­ning.

Phoebe and the big­gest cheer­lead­ing star in the world met pre­vi­ously, al­beit never per­son­ally.

The pair Skyped each other some three years ago, but this was Phoebe’s first op­por­tu­nity to meet Man­ning in per­son.

“We were sit­ting in the big sta­dium for fi­nals and we saw their en­tire team go to one of the top cor­ners af­ter their rou­tine,” she said.

“I went over and she re­mem­bered me from when we Skyped. It was re­ally great.”

All cheer­lead­ing all of the time

At an event like the World Cham­pi­onships, most con­ver­sa­tions re­volve around cheer­lead­ing. While in Or­lando, the group hung out at Dis­ney World and took in all the com­pe­ti­tion had to of­fer.

“There wasn’t a dull mo­ment. We made new friends, made friends with some par­ents, but we were al­ways on the go and al­ways su­per ex­cited,” said Phoebe.

If ev­ery­thing goes ac­cord­ing to plan, she’ll be cross­ing an­other in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion off her list — the In­ter­na­tional All-Star Fed­er­a­tion World Cham­pi­onship.

That’s where na­tional teams com­pete.

“I’ve al­ways done train­ing in hopes of try­ing out for Team Canada one day,” said Phoebe. “I’m hope­fully go­ing to push it to try that.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Clarke’s Beach’s Phoebe Wilkins com­petes dur­ing the United States All-Star Fed­er­a­tion (USASF) World Cheer­lead­ing Cham­pi­onships held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports com­plex in Or­lando, Fla., April 24-26.

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