BY ANGIE HAFLICH
Many little girls dream of being cheerleaders when they're older, but for the Garden City Junior Cheerleaders, that dream is already a reality.
On top that, the girls recently took first place as both squads and trios at a cheerleading competition in Denver.
"It's a really fun time," 8-year-old Peighton Tabor said, describing cheerleading.
The Garden City Junior Cheerleaders consists of two age groups — 4 to 6-year-olds and 7 to 12-year olds. As squads, both groups won first place at America's Best Cheer and Dance Competition, held at the Denver Coliseum Feb. 24.
The 4 to 5-year-olds are in the Glitz squad and include: Aleeya Cruz, Annaleigh Otero, Bekah Garcia, Brynn Wiscomb, Cadynce Leon, Cazlyn McGraw, Gretchen Deines, Kamdyn Carr, Karah Garcia, Katrina Nickell and McKenna Leon.
"There were 10 little girls that went into competition and they did really well — they worked the judges. The most important thing is just to make sure you're smiling and having fun and every single one of them did that," said Hayley Frazier, director of the program.
The 7 to 12-year-olds are in the Gold squad: Abby Parr, Alexes Amos, Brayley Frazier, Brooklyn McGraw, Cambry Hitchcock, Emily Heskett, Jaeden Wiscomb, Jaelynn Smith, Mya Cruz, Peighton Tabor, Savannah Garcia, Sydney Nanninga, Taeler Wiscomb, Taylee Tabor and Taylor Tabor.
Both squads performed routines, which featured of dancing, tumbling and stunting.
"They do their cheer and as soon as the cheer's over, the music begins and their routine starts," Frazier said.
In addition to the squads, the members of the Gold group also performed in two sets of trios, which allowed for the three gymnasts of the group to showcase their tumbling skills.
"Once I realized that if I let our gymnasts show what they could do, that we would be deducted as a team — anything above and beyond, you're actually deducted for — then I just wanted to figure out another opportunity where they could showcase that and not hurt the full squad," Frazier said. "Really, the main focus is always the squad, but I feel like the dedication these girls have with the gym and the things they bring to the squad, that I wanted to give them that opportunity."
That trio consisted of three gymnasts from the Gold squad — 9-year-old Abby Parr, 11-year-old Taylor Newsome and 10-year-old Cambry Hitchcock.
"My favorite part of that trio was when we got to do a roundoff back handspring back tuck and stuck it," Taylor said.
When asked how gymnastics helps her with cheerleading, Abby said, "It helps with my tumbling a lot, and the strength."
To be fair, Frazier said she offered the chance to other girls to participate in trios, as well.
"This wasn't anything we planned at the beginning and then once I decided to do a trio, then I just opened it up because I also didn't feel like it was fair to just give the gymnasts that opportunity," she said, adding that three other girls jumped at the chance.
Those three were 10-year-old Brayley Frazier, 9-year-old Mya Cruz and 9-year-old Alexes Amos.
"We did sort of a different dance," Brayley said. "For our tumbling, we did forward rolls and it wasn't as intense."
Frazier said that aside from both the squads and trios winning first place, she was most proud of the way the girls worked together.
"The girls — they've really come together and grown as a team this year, as opposed to being as clique-y as girls can sometimes be. They did good about supporting one another and being encouraging," Frazier said.
Taylor said the team aspect is one of her favorite things about cheerleading.
"I love how we all bond and stuff," Taylor said.
Peighton's mom, Elizabeth Tabor, who attended the competition, said the program has helped the girls understand not only teamwork, but other characteristics, as well.
"These girls are amazing — just the confidence level they're building," Tabor said. "Peighton was bummed when she found out cheer was over. She was asking last night, 'When's cheer?'"
This year's program ran from the beginning of September 2012 through the end of February, and throughout that time, the girls also performed at the YMCA's Super Saturday football games, as well as the half-times of both GCHS high school and Garden City Community College basketball games.
Frazier said that one of the goals of the program is to promote the idea of bringing cheerleading back to the middle schools. "If the girls follow the program, if the middle schools would bring it back in when they end as 12-year-olds, then they would just step right into middle school cheerleading. So ideally, that would be great and I hope that some time Garden could rally together and bring that back," she said.