Lady Prospectors take their dance, tumbling, stunt skills to JAMZ National competition in Las Vegas, February 23 & 24
By Dana Trumbull
Apache Junction High School is sending one of their sports teams to national competition: Cheerleading!
On December 10, 2017, a dozen Lady Prospectors on the Varsity Cheer squad were excited to learn that they had placed first in the regional JAMZ cheer and dance competition and were headed to the national competition in Las Vegas on February 23 and 24. The competition tests the teams’ dancing, tumbling and stunting skills.
In an informal interview, with the girls gathered on a tumbling mat in the dance room at the AJHS South Gym, team members elaborated, “We competed a lot in 2013-14, but not so much in 2015 and 2016. Cheer encountered some problems, but we’ve brought it back around this year, and we’re really excited to see how far we can take it.” The girls are working to increase their tumbling skills prior to nationals, as well as perfecting technique, sharpness and stunt skills.
The team has already overcome odds to get to this point. With no seniors on the team to turn to for leadership and experience (the three that started with the team this year left to take after-school jobs), the team of mostly sophomores, with one junior and a few freshmen, have held onto their vision with high spirits and lots of practice, conditioning and hard work. “It’s paid off,” says Cheer Coach Kim Greer. “Over the summer break, they all did conditioning. They ran laps and bleachers, lifted weights – all of that. They do all of the work that other sports do to prepare. The dancing, and the tumbling and the 2 ½ minute routine; it takes a lot out of you. The practice is time consuming, and you have to be fit!”
For the homecoming assembly last fall, the football players worked with the cheer team on a routine. “A lot of the guys didn’t think cheer was a sport,” said one of the girls (while others chimed in, “Yeah!”). “Then they practiced with us every night, and they realized they were getting tired! It wasn’t what they expected it to be. The guys would stunt, and then they’d be like, ‘Oh, ok. Not so easy.’”
“They think that we’re not strong; we’re just weak girls,” another voice speaks out. “But it’s not footballs or basketballs that we’re throwing in the air; we throw girls who weigh like a hundred pounds in the air, and, more importantly, we have to catch them, too. We can’t fumble a teammate!”
To those who think that cheer is not a sport, the Lady Prospectors say, “Just do it and you’ll understand.”
At this time, the AJHS Cheer Team does not compete in AIA “Spiritline” competitions. “AIA is strictly for high school teams,” explains Greer. “JAMZ is open to gymnastics and dance schools as well as public high schools.”
The AJHS Cheer Team welcomes donations and sponsorships to help fund the trip to Las Vegas, which will cost $105 per girl (approximately $1,300) for the registration fee. Donations can be applied as tax credits for 2017 Arizona income tax (up to $200 for an individual taxpayer or up to $400 for a married couple filing jointly): https://www.ajusd.org/Page/211. Please note “Varsity Cheer” as the designee.
The girls will also have Little Caesar’s fundraisers on Jan. 10 and Feb. 11 (725 Apache Trail, Apache Junction, 480-671-0335) and a car wash at AZ Tiremens shop (482 Apache Trail, Apache Junction) on Jan 20.
Top photo: L-R: Coach Frankie Duecet, Britney Davis, Destiny Dyer, Taylor Neace, Adison Vargas, Marisa Rios, Robynn Vandekrol, Meghan Bartley, Megan Wagner, Kassy Sheehan (assistant), Jocelyn Ochoa, and Coach Kim Greer with Ireland. Not pictured are Makayla Henwood and Mackenzie Vandekrol.