by Stephen Dafoe
Fifteen-year-old MCHS student Kendall Weiss and 14-year-old Primeau student Kennedi Knight are off to Florida later this month to compete in the ICU Cheerleading and Dance Worlds Championship as part of Junior Team Canada.
Both Morinville athletes are also part of Thunder, an international open co-ed level 5 team. The team won an opportunity to compete in the annual event after defeating two Ontario teams in the finals as well as submitting a winning video from among 17 teams from across Canada.
The athletes will compete Apr. 25 with Junior Team Canada and with Thunder on Apr. 29.
The team is made up of members from Morinville, St. Albert, Edmonton, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain and Calgary. Practices with individual team members take place in Edmonton and Calgary, alternating between cities a couple of times a month.
Kendall Weiss says she has been in cheerleading for the past two years, before which she spent five years in gymnastics. One of her coaches suggested she try cheer and she says she has been in love with it ever since.
“It is about how strong everybody is bonded and how everyone cheers everybody on,” Weiss said of her sport. “Everybody is so close and loves one another. It’s so supportive.”
But beyond the camaraderie and mutual support, Weiss said cheer offers a level of athleticism that is intense.
“The higher the level you get, the more you are allowed to do,” she said. “Your difficulty goes up, and your scoring is based on your difficulty.”
Kennedi Knight has been in the sport for seven years and had also previously been involved in gymnastics for a few years.
“I was really bored one summer, and my parents put me in a summer camp at our gym,” Knight said of her introduction to the sport. “I’ve loved it ever since.”
Like Weiss, Knight also loves the team aspect of the sport and spending time with her fellow athletes.
“I like the competitiveness and being able to advance in skills,” Knight said.
Neither student is involved in cheer at their respective schools due to regulations within the sport. In addition to being on Junior Team Canada, both students are part of an all-star team called Thunder, an international open co-ed level 5 team, which prevents them from competing at the high school level due to conflict of interest.
Both athletes are looking forward to their competition in Florida. Weiss is making her second trip to Worlds – for Knight, it is her first journey.
“It’s so crazy because everyone is there cheering everybody on,” Weiss said. “There are really well-known teams, and everyone goes crazy for them.”
Both local athletes hit the gym in Edmonton four days per week to practice with local team members.
Weiss is quick to point out that the upcoming Florida competition is not a stereotypical cheerleader event with pompoms.
“There is all the conditioning that we do to get our skills, and all the work that we put in to get it – the time and effort,” Weiss said. “It doesn’t stop at the gym. There’s stuff you have to do at home, too. Stretching every day, eat healthier.”
Knight says she is looking forward to her inaugural trip to Worlds. “I’ve been to a big competition in Palm Springs, but that is it,” she said. “I think with Junior Team Canada, we’ve put a lot of work into it, and we can place really high.”
ICU Cheerleading and Dance Worlds Championship is the recognized world governing body of cheerleading and is made up of 3.5 million athletes.
The 2018 Junior World Cheerleading Championships take place April 25 to 27 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Those wanting to assist the team or the Morinville athletes can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/juniorteamcanada2018