Competitors reach for cheering summit
For years youth cheerleaders Izzy Bozek, Lauren Foley, Emily Lefebvre and Kenzi McInnis have competed in a variety of local and out-of-state competitions and events, but next month will head to Florida for a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete against some of the best youth cheerleaders across the country on a much bigger stage.
Bozek, Foley, Lefebvre and McInnis, members of the Element’s All-Star Gym in Lewiston, and their teammates on the gym’s Xenon team, have qualified to compete in The Summit All-Star Cheering Championship May 5 through May 7 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
The team earned a place in the championship by winning the Spirit Festival competition in Hartford, Connecticut on March 11 that featured 60 teams from all over the country. The team has also competed in close to a dozen other events, including competitions in Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
“It’s every cheerleader’s dream to compete there. It’s the best of the best,” Lefebvre, a seventh-grader at Scarborough Middle School said, adding it “is a big deal” for a gym of Element’s size to compete against much larger gyms at the three-day cheering championship.
“This is a big opportunity for us to go our first year at our new gym,” said Bozek, who is in fifth-grade at Wentworth School.
All four cheerleaders began the sport in third-grade and started at Element’s in May, where they have been training with their eyes on a spot in the All-Star Cheering Championship. The competition will be streamed online at tv.varsity.com and include 54 teams in Xenon’s division. Xenon, which has qualified to bypass the wildcard round, will be competing Saturday, May 6 and if the team scored in the top 15, again on Sunday, May 7.
“From the beginning it was our goal,” said McInnis, a Scarborough Middle School eighth-grader who, along with Foley, a seventh-grader, will also be competing in Florida with Element’s Titanium team. Titanium and Xenon are two of the four teams Element’s is sending to the competition.
Bozek said she and her teammates have been working on the routine that they will perform since May and been tweaking it for the competition since they found out they earned a place Monday, March 13.
“It’s the same routine, but we’ve added stuff, changed stuff and made things more difficult throughout the year as we’ve competed,” Bozek said.
Foley said the routine they are preparing may only be two minutes and thirty seconds, but hours of preparation have gone into it. The Xenon team practices two and a half hours twice a week, plus a tumbling practice as well. Foley and McInnis make the 90-minute round trip to Lewiston more often, including for a five-hour practice on Sundays.
Because of this time commitment, Erin Lefebvre said her daughter, as well as her fellow teammates, has sacrificed time with friends and family to dedicate more time to cheering.
Erin Lefebvre said she chose Elements gym to give her daughter a change to “learn and compete at the high level and where she’d also be brought up as an athlete with integrity.”
“I watched Element compete last year at some of the competitions we attended and I was just blown away at not only their athletic ability, but at the way these girls and coaches carried themselves. They were so respectful and it was clear they were a real cheer family... sounds pretty cheesy, but it’s true. After watching them several times, I just knew that’s what I wanted my daughter to be a part of,” Erin Lefebvre wrote in an email to the Leader.
The cheerleaders hope all these hours of practice and months of hard work pay off.
McInnis said for the competition, the routine has to be “technically perfect” because as Lefebvre added, even the smallest mistake can doom a team’s final score.
Foley is confident Xenon has got the routine to that point.
“We know what to do, now we just have to do it on stage,” she said.
Xenon won’t have much time to rest on their laurels. The team is set to compete at a U.S. Finals Cheer and Dance event May 12 to May 14 in Providence, Rhode Island.