Always in good cheer, despite the roadblocks

Kenn Oliver
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Terra Nova Elite turning out national champions, but can't find its place in provincial sporting or arts community

Since winning their first Canadian championship at the Cheer Expo Nationals in Montreal last March, a lot has changed for the Newfoundland and Labrador Cheerleading Athletics (NLCA).

First and foremost, its name.

The organization, which is by school cheerleading coaches-turned private instructors Krystal Penney and Amy Small, is now known as Terra Nova Elite.

- Submitted photo/Mark Oakley

Since winning their first Canadian championship at the Cheer Expo Nationals in Montreal last March, a lot has changed for the Newfoundland and Labrador Cheerleading Athletics (NLCA).

First and foremost, its name.

The organization, which is by school cheerleading coaches-turned private instructors Krystal Penney and Amy Small, is now known as Terra Nova Elite.

They've also doubled the number of teams which operate under the banner. In addition to the senior (13-19 years) Nova Elite Stars and 18-plus Nova Elite Rock, Penney and Small started a junior team team, known as the Starlites, and a youth team for cheerleaders as young as eight, called the Comets.

"I think we had close to 130 try out (in 2008) and they were coming back again last year and we knew with only 36 spots free (on the Stars) ,we were going to have to turn them away again," Penney said.

"But how many times are you going to turn someone away before they're not coming back anymore?"

Opening the door to so many new members, however, meant finding a new place to call home.

"Within Cygnus and Campia, there are only so many time slots to rent," Penney says of the gymnastics facilities the cheerleading teams previously used for practice.

"Once we had the Rock, the Stars and the Starlites, those clubs didn't have any additional time to offer us."

So in December, Penney and Small found themselves a warehouse to rent near the airport and Terra Nova Elite found itself new home to hone tossing and tumbling skills, catches and choreography.

Last month, it paid off as the Stars won their second straight national championship at the Cheer Expo Halifax.

Another dominating win

Duplicating their 2009 effort, the Stars didn't just win, they dominated, outscoring the opposition in the four judged categories: stunts and building skills, jumps and tumbling, and dance and choreography.

The Stars also posted an overall score bested only by a pair of Level 6 teams, whose members are all 18 or older, and won the Max-Out award, essentially a tournament most valuable team honour.

Unlike their first foray into national competition, the Stars were armed - and legged - with a greater gymnastics background, bolstering the roster's former-gymnast contingent from four to 13.

"If it wasn't for those kids being members of the team, we probably wouldn't have outscored the other teams in that category. But with them, we kept the lead in every other area and came out on top."

And to the victors, go the spoils.

In addition to a new set of uniforms, a gift certificate for embroidery of said garbs, the Stars were also awarded free registration to their choice of two European competitions and the upcoming Cheer Expo Grand Championships in Montreal.

"Amy totalled it up to be over $10,000 in prizes," Penney said.

For an organization that relies on monthly membership fees to pay the bills and requires a massive fundraising effort by the cheerleaders and their parents to get to competitions (the trip to Halifax alone cost in the area of $1,700 per cheerleader, the prize payout goes a long way.

Unlike their counterparts in the mainstream sports, cheerleading falls into a grey area when it comes to government funding and grants.

"We couldn't apply for the athletic grants because we're not, technically, a sport, and we couldn't apply for the artistic grant because we're not, technically, an art," Penney said.

"We couldn't find anything that defined us. We went ahead and applied for a mixed arts grant, which seems like it could apply because we do the gymnastics and the dancing in a semi-Cirque du Soleil way.

"But they told us we were not a mixed art either."

Penney hopes Terra Nova Elite will have better luck getting some government dollars once it celebrates its second anniversary and becomes eligible under government rules.

"Cheerleading teams should be competing four or five times a year. We normally only leave once," Penney says.

"We'd love some sponsorship to help get our kids away."

In the meantime, the Nova Elite Stars are hard at work preparing for the Montreal Expo next month where they'll be joined by the Starlites in their first national competition.

When they return, Penney and Small will again begin the tryout process and hope to be able to field two teams in senior, junior and youth, and start a 14-plus international open team, "the most popular and most common category in cheerleading that would get a big to to go a world competition."

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Terra Nova Elite, Newfoundland and Labrador Cheerleading Athletics

Geographic location: Montreal, Campia, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • sarah lawlir
    June 06, 2011 - 19:40

    Actually now they went on two win another 11 banners for gold because they expanded their teams and they are basically considered the best gym in Atlantic Canada!

  • kj
    July 02, 2010 - 13:12

    They won their SECOND NATIONAL championship in December and we're only finding about it now as it's hidden in an article? Why wasn't this everywhere in the news before? Maybe I missed it but there should have been a huge media blitz/celebration!

  • kj
    July 01, 2010 - 19:49

    They won their SECOND NATIONAL championship in December and we're only finding about it now as it's hidden in an article? Why wasn't this everywhere in the news before? Maybe I missed it but there should have been a huge media blitz/celebration!