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OVAC Cheering Competition

January 30, 2013 - Michael Palmer
The 22nd Annual OVAC Cheering Championships will beheld Saturday at WesBanco Arena.

The will be 29 schools competing in five divisions: Class 1A - Beallsville, Bishop Donahue, Madonna, Paden City, St. John Central and Valley; Class 2A - Bridgeport, Shadyside, Steubenville Catholic, Toronto and Wheeling Central; Class 3A - Barnesville, Bellaire, Linsly, Magnolia, Monroe Central, River and Tyler Consolidated; Class 4A - Buckeye Local, Martins Ferry, Oak Glen, St. Clairsville, Steubenville, Union Local and Weir; Class 5A - Brooke, Edison, John Marshall and Wheeling Park.

We have debated if this is a sport in a true sense in prior blogs, so let's skip that this year. I feel it should be counted as such, if only to increase the number of competitions, which I think would make it more appealing to female athletes.

Unless you are in the Buckeye 8, locally competition cheer squads work and train from July until January for just one three minute routine.

Imagine, in comparison, if you had to train five or six days a week for six or seven months and you got to play one game, three minutes long and that would be your entire season.

Invariably there are a few sidelined cheerleaders who put in the months of practice and must sit out the actual competition with an injury.

Madness you say?

Add that after football, cheerleading accounts for more catastrophic injuries than any other 'sport' among high school athletes and you have a real dilemma.

In all sports recognized by a high school athletic association and the NCAA, instructors and coaches must be certified, and a medical expert or athletic trainer must be present on the sideline. Because only 29 states’ high school athletic associations recognize it and the NCAA has not, to-date, classified cheerleading as a sport or an ‘emerging sport’, most of these athletes are performing with only an adviser who may not have any clue when it comes to diagnosing concussions or other injuries.

If you look at the cheerleaders on the sidelines of local basketball courts you will see an array of wrist, elbow, ankle and knee braces that rival any front line in football.

Then these frail little girls in their designer sweaters and short sequin skirts take off on a dead run and flip dozens of times across a hardwood floor testing the hardware that is keeping their tendons from snapping as they flip over and over again.

One other aspect of cheering is that it is a community sport as well. It takes a village applies.

In support of the teams are a host of volunteers who sew everything from uniforms to pony tails, do make up and hair at 4 am, and turn out in big numbers to cheer for their teams.

There are the parents of cheerleaders who shoulder the costs of a very expensive “sport” and supply the years of gymnastics lessons, the vast array of equipment and clothing, including the stuffed animals that always appear at the awards.

My job at the championship is to try and get a decent action shot during the 180 seconds of mayhem on the floor for the newspaper. Not an easy assignment considering that 25 percent of all the photos I snap feature shall we say “inappropriate” parts of the uniform, which taste and proper etiquette require must be deleted.

It is along day for all but over the years I have developed a respect for the 'non-sport' and the competitors.

After all they can execute some gymnastics moves which I doubt that many of the area male athletes could execute, like ten consecutive backhand springs.

If you want to witness the spectacle the doors open at 8:30 a.m. and the competition begins following warm ups for the squads competing in the morning session.

Tentative times for the competition schedule are: 1-A competition 10:05, 2-A competition 10:45, 3-A competition 11:05. Awards for 1, 2 and 3 A at noon. The 4-A competition is lated to begin at 1:50 and 5-A competition 2:25 and awards for 4 and 5 A will wrap up the championships at approximately 3:00. Tickets are $6 for adults and $5 for students.


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