All stunts, no punts; Cheerleaders take center stage at state championship.
SHREWSBURY - Everyone knows there's no crying in baseball.
As for competitive high school cheerleading, that's another matter altogether.
Close to 70 cheerleading squads and dance teams from Pittsfield to Barnstable competed yesterday in four divisions and a dance division, each giving their all for a trophy in the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators' Association state championship at Shrewsbury High School.
Win or lose, the tears flowed freely, either in spontaneous elation over a mistake-free routine or in distress at the inadvertent half-completed stunt that never escapes the notice of the judges.
Large and small coed squads and the small Division 4 schools got an early start at 10 a.m.; dance and Division 1 schools took to the mat at 1:30, and Division 2 and 3 schools wrapped up the day just before 5.
Each squad's routine was three minutes exactly, and the cheer teams could have no more than 90 seconds of musical accompaniment.
For those who continue to insist that cheerleading is not a sport, the three minutes of frenetic cardio might well equal the exertion of any number of other varsity sports.
As it is, most of the squads competing yesterday will suit up again Thursday for traditional Thanksgiving Day rivalries, and likely will include much - if not all - of the choreography that wowed the families and friends filling the gym bleachers yesterday.
Tyler Dolan, captain of the David Prouty High School cheerleading squad, is a senior and has been active in cheerleading since eighth grade. Prouty's squad, which finished second in the small school coed division, admitted there is an advantage in having two other males on the team when it comes to executing lifts.
Aside from carrying a trophy back to their respective schools, many teams earned sufficient points from the cadre of judges to make them eligible for national competition.
Hilary Dupre said the Shrewsbury squad, which finished eighth in Division 1 competition but will be eligible for the nationals again. It competed the past two years at the Can-Am cheerleading competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"It's not just the overhead work that's important, but to be really good at tumbling, handsprings, can make the difference between winning and finishing without a trophy," said Mrs. Dupre, mother of a Shrewsbury High cheerleader.
A testament to the strenuous nature of competition routines and weekly workouts at varsity football games is that several squads had members sporting knee braces and nursing sore wrists as they left the mat.
The 15 members of the Braintree High Dance team turned in a first-place performance that included a Rockettes-style kick line. Most of the dance teams incorporated some form of leg kick in the choreography with the exception of Marlboro. Its nine members brought both a different wardrobe and a different choreography that failed to impress the judges, but brought a wildly enthusiastic response from the hometown cheering section in the bleachers.
CUTLINE: (1) Watching from a second-floor observation window, Shrewsbury High School cheerleaders Alie Curran, left, Vivianne Brandao, center, and Julianna Murray watch the Abington High School cheerleaders perform yesterday in the Division 4 competition. (2) David Prouty cheerleader Erin Osterhoudt strikes a pose after being lifted by her teammates during the competition yesterday. The Prouty cheerleaders took second place in the small coed division.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/PAUL KAPTEYN