Day full of competition gets off to a cheerful start at Wiesbaden
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 23, 2019
WIESBADEN, Germany — The noise in the Clay Kaserne Fitness Center Saturday morning was deafening - and championship basketball was still hours away.
The sound of the early-bird crowd at times was roused to a fever pitch by the athletic and spirited displays put on by the 19 cheer squads competing in DODEA-Europe’s annual cheerleading championships.
With routines that included high-flying pony tails, running back flips, and pyramids that mostly held steady, there was rarely a dull moment in a competition combining stunts, dance and cheer.
The judges crowned two new champions – Stuttgart in Division I and Sigonella in Division III – while Division II perennial winner Rota held on to the top spot for the fourth year in a row.
The victory was bittersweet for the Admirals: Longtime cheer coach Ruthanne Bloyd is retiring, capping a 17-year coaching career at Rota that garnered 11 cheer titles.
“There’s no better way to go out,” a teary-eyed Bloyd said while celebrating with her squad. “This is fantastic for the kids. I can’t imagine ending it with a different group.”
Bloyd said teamwork and commitment was key to Rota’s enduring success.
That team mentality sparked Rota’s victory on the mat, said senior Megan Shaw. “You have to work together,” she said.
“It’s a whole domino effect,” added Savanna Matteson, a Rota junior. If one little thing goes wrong, “everything will come down.”
This year’s competition was particularly close, said Leslie Atkins, the cheer tournament director.
“There weren’t any teams that were way out on top or way down at the bottom,” she said.
Atkins said she saw skills on par with those one might see at a national-level cheer competition.
But level of difficulty in stunts is not the sole criteria judges use in scoring. Execution is also important, Atkins said.
“We don’t want people throwing tricks they can’t safely do,” she said. “We have people who have never cheered before who join these teams.”
Other scoring elements include creativity and how well a squad’s cheer engaged the crowd. “Is it crowd effective? Not just ‘was it cool?’,” Atkins said.
For Stuttgart, the win was its first since 2015, when the school was called Patch. Wiesbaden, runner-up in Division I, had held the title for the last three years.
Sigonella, Division III champions in 2017, climbed back on top after finishing third last year.
“I’m so proud of this team, oh my gosh,” gushed Sigonella senior captain Natasha Estes. “The season was really, really hard for us.”
1.Stuttgart, 2. Wiesbaden, 3. Ramstein
1.ROTA, 2. Aviano, 3. AOSR
1.Sigonella, 2. Spangdahlem, 3. Hohenfels
Division I - Kaiserslautern, Division II - ROTA, Division III - Spangdahlem
Joshua Blake, Wiesbaden; Annie Fees, Kaydi Brechler and Emma Swofford, Vilseck; Kaiah Hicks, Vicenza; Samantha Sonka, Ramstein; Lily Ekern, Jaeleen Peterson and Tayt Albert, Kaiserslautern; Lindsey Simmons, SHAPE; Emma Lane, Stuttgart; Kylee Davis, Lakenheath.
Trinity Saenz, Talitha Island and Madison Collins, Aviano; Morgan Field and Faith Skariah, AFNorth; Savanna Matteson and Alicia Tate, ROTA; Sophia Notarianni, AOSR.
Mia Cabugao and Alyssa Beighle, Alconbury; Grace Pedigo, Baumholder; Lily Flint and Camryn Young Morales, Spangdahlem; Natasha Estes, Sigonella; Anthony Gogue, Hohenfels; Paris Rogers, Brussels.