The Pacific Cheer Empire cheer squad is going to Las Vegas to compete against the top teams in North America.
The group has been practicing together for nearly a year and this is their fifth competition. The team had to win a bid to be able to compete in Vegas, meaning they had to place in the top three teams in a U.S. competition.
The team recently returned from a competition in Florida in which they came third against the top teams in the U.S. The team performed their routine twice over the course of two days and for one performance they hit zero, performing the routine without any mistakes.
The group is a senior level 2 team and has 25 girls ranging in age from 11 to 18 years old. Many of the girls didn’t have any cheer experience prior to joining Pacific Cheer.
Shannon Kamiel, owner of Pacific Cheer Empire, has been involved in cheer for more than 16 years. She is originally from Nova Scotia and relocated to the West Shore when her husband was stationed at CFB Esquimalt.
Kamiel said competitive cheer on the West Coast has been slower to pick up than the East Coast, and the Island is still a bit behind the mainland, but she is excited to help grow the sport she loves.
She feels the level of sportsmanship in cheer is higher than other sports because each squad wants to see their competitors perform well.
She noted at the Sea to Sky competition in Vancouver, one of the other teams in the tournament had their music cut out during their routine, and the rules are that you cannot stop, so Pacific Cheer and other teams joined in to chant the counts of the song so the team could finish.
Kamiel was beaming with pride when she talked about the strides the team has made since their very first competition a little more than a year ago. She said there were hundreds of teams, and thousands of athletes and although her team didn’t place, despite performing a solid routine both days of the tournament, she said the girls learned quickly what a competition is about.
The girls practice around eight to 10 hours per week, twice a week for two hours, and then the coaches come up with an individual plan for each athlete.
“Depending on the athlete, some might need more work practicing motion, dance, reviewing counts, stretching, conditioning, the safe things outside of the gym,” Kamiel said. “No stunts or tumbling outside of it.”
Assistant coaches Kennedy Locke and Laura Jaundrew both still enjoy the camaraderie of the sport. Locke has been in cheer for six years, and cheers on the Pacific Cheer open team. Jaundrew used to be a cheerleader for the Westshore Rebels, and the Langley Rams and competed with the Rams at local competitions.
The youngest member at Pacific Cheer is five, and the oldest is 32. They are also accepting new members for the season which is open to anyone ages three and up and no experience is required.
The team heads to Vegas Thursday for the May 11 competition.