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Kubasaki, Yokota prevail at Far East cheerleading championships

Robert D. Edgren's Eagles, led by jumper A.J. Nelson, cheer during the Far East cheerleading competition at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 23, 2019.

TRINITY WOLFE/SPECIAL TO STARS AND STRIPES

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 26, 2019

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Brie Barnett spends her time in the fall working on her volleyball passes, digs and spikes and in the spring polishing her soccer touch.

But the senior from Kadena High School on Okinawa will tell you in a heartbeat that cheerleading tops the list of the hardest things she does.

“As a tri-athlete, cheerleading is definitely the hardest sport I play,” Barnett said. She was one of 15 cheerleaders named to the All-Far East and National Cheerleaders Association All-American teams following last week’s Far East cheerleading camp and competition.

“And our entire season comes down to 90 seconds on the mat,” Barnett said of the routine in the team competition that culminated the event Friday. “It’s a contact sport [in which] you can get hurt by your own team, but you have to love and trust your teammates. It’s exhausting, mentally and physically.”

The camp and competition, sponsored by NCA and the Department of Defense Education Activity, took place last week at Matthew C. Perry High School at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, and featured 106 cheerleaders from 12 DODEA Pacific schools.

Winning the Division I championship for the second time in three years was Kubasaki High at Camp Foster, Okinawa, while the Division II champion was Yokota High — which had not won a Far East team title since 1996, when it was a Division I school.

It was a grueling four days in which participants rose before dawn and went virtually non-stop until evening, a series of classes, routines and evaluations, with a few minutes for mealtime squeezed it, “with no down time,” said Yokota coach Alex Baird.

Of the competitions sponsored by NCA, Far East “is a unique type” that “fuses the characteristics of a traditional instructional camp with the culmination of that week resulting in a competition,” said Brian Cao, director of training and education for NCA choreography.

“It was tough, but in the end, rewarding,” said Humphreys’ Lily Austinson, a junior team captain who was also named All-Far East and NCA All-American.

“It was a lot thrown at you in a span of a couple of days, putting together routines based on what they taught you,” she said. “It pushed people to see how much they could achieve in that short a time.”

NCA officials judged the participants in individual competitions, dancing, jumping and tumbling, along with group and partner stunts. Teams were also judged on their group routines as well as crowd-leading, which included props, megaphones and signs.

The event culminated with a 90-second competition, in which each team had to come up with a routine based on what was taught during the week.

“It was hard, very strenuous activity,” Baird said. “It was a lot of pressure” on the participants.

While Yokota’s championship was, as Baird put it, “a long time coming,” the D-I championship was “bittersweet” for Kubasaki, said Dragons coach Leahann Davis, who transfers after this school year along with her daughter Jaidah, who was also named All-Far East and All-American.

“So many emotions, so many ups and downs, so many good days and bad days, but they hunkered down as a team and pulled through,” the elder Davis said. “I hope [Kubasaki] can keep it going.”

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

Seoul American's Rowan Beaudry smiles as she leaps during the Far East cheerleading competition at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Feb. 23, 2019.
SHION RUDOPH/SPECIAL TO STARS AND STRIPES

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