In the spirit
Tarryn Attwell wanted nothing more than to be part of a team - except maybe to win trophies. She now has the chance to do both.
The bouncy 16-year-old Down syndrome athlete takes her sport seriously, attending classes each Wednesday for the past six years with Palmerston North’s Zero Gravity Cheerleading.
A member of the gym’s mixed abilities class, Tarryn has taken part in competitive cheerleading meets in Manawatu, Wellington, Auckland, and in Brisbane, albeit in the friendly ‘‘spirit’’ class.
But later in October she will be competing in the New Zealand Cheer Union nationals in Auckland, her first time in the senior level 1 open class - the more serious stuff.
‘‘It’s a mainstream division of cheerleading,’’ said Zero Gravity’s Sarah Mitchell.
According to mum AllyAttwell, Tarryn has an eye for trophies, medals and ribbons, and as those weren’t available in the ‘‘spirit’’ division, she was the one who made the call to step up.
‘‘When the music is playing she doesn’t stop - she’s up and dancing all the time to all the other teams’ routines,’’ Ally said.
Also a member of the Freyberg High School cheerleading squad, Tarryn has warmed up for the national event by winning the Variety Act award for her routine at the recent Special Olympics SO Talented contest.
‘‘She did Zero Gravity proud,’’ Mitchell said.
Cheerleading has become a family affair for the Attwells. Elder sister Chalyce started things off, recruiting Attwell as a ‘cheermom’, a role she has kept for Tarryn and her youngest daughter Kyndra, 14.
Kyndra is now Tarryn’s coach, and together the pair will go through Tarryn’s routine three times a day, and sometimes more.
There are a dozen members in Zero Gravity’s mixed abilities squad.
‘‘Tarryn is an inspiration,’’ Mitchell said. ‘‘I worked for Idea Services [the service arm for IHC] for three years and thought why not have a class? There is a lack of inclusive sporting activities for people with disabilities. There are sports available, but often they are segregated.’’
‘‘Here, Tarryn gets to be part of a team,’’ Ally said. ‘‘Exercise is really important and this is a really fun way of exercising. She doesn’t have the stamina for usual team sports, but in cheerleading she knows she has a minute to give it her all - and she does.’’
Cheerleader Tarryn Attwell gives it her all.