Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cheerleaders Have Cheering Section, Too Parents Also Go on the Road

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cheerleaders Have Cheering Section, Too Parents Also Go on the Road

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, Times-Union staff writer

JEKYLL ISLAND -- The noise was nearly deafening as teams of cheerleaders took the floor yesterday in the All Star Challenge cheerleader competition.

And that was mostly the mothers.

There are about 3,000 cheerleaders and dancers vying through today for one of the mass of gleaming trophies on display behind the gym mats where they tumbled, flipped, chanted and flew through the air to throbbing rock music. And a strong contingent was on hand cheering for the cheerleaders.

The cheerleaders, ranging in age from kindergartners to high school seniors, are members of touring all-star teams and aren't exactly delicate. A few went through their paces wearing casts while others, in the early stages of healing, cheered from the sidelines of the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Megan O'Donnell, 14, cheered on her teammates on the Palm Beach County All Stars as she sat with a cast on her right leg.

"I was practicing tumbling," she said.

Coach Rafael Froneta of the Step Ahead All Stars of Miami taped Allison Stone's right ankle snugly before her group's turn.

"I've seen more injuries in cheerleading than I ever saw in football and basketball," said Froneta, who played both in high school.

Allison, a senior, said she's been cheering for years. It requires strenuous practices three to four times a week.

Most of the cheerleaders have parents with them on the road.

Kenny Crabtree drove to Jekyll Island from Grove City, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, with his wife and daughters, Chelsea, 10, and Jessica, 15. His girls have already been successful. On Friday night, Chelsea won youth dance and Jessica won the junior dance and finished fourth in ninth-grade cheer, he said.

The long road trips will continue for the Crabtrees. Next week, they'll drive to a competition in Indianapolis and fly to another in Orlando in two weeks, he said. They also hit Gatlinburg, Tenn., every year.

Crabtree says his family has enjoyed Jekyll Island with its laid-back atmosphere and lack of distractions, but that will change next year when the competition moves south to Jacksonville.

"Through the year, we'll probably go to 15 competitions . . . and spend about $11,000," he said. "I learned a long time ago I'll never get out of debt until the girls are out of college."

He may save some money on college, however, because Jessica's goal is to cheer at Ohio State and she's on track to make a college squad, he said.

But Crabtree said he reaps plenty of benefits now.

"The kids are in an athletic event, they're around great people and they have to maintain their grades to compete," he said.

Amber Andrews' years of competition and practice should pay off much sooner. She is being recruited for the Florida State University competitive staff and she will work on the cheerleader camp and event staffs, said her father, Wayne Andrews. …

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