Evan Thompson / The Record — South Whidbey’s fall cheer team practices a stunt during practice on Thursday morning. The Falcons, who are the returning academic state champions, won a National Cheer Association camp this summer at the Great Wolf Lodge in Centralia.

Cheer team wins camp competition, preps for fall season

For not having competed against other teams in four years, South Whidbey cheer held its own and then some this summer.

The Falcons won a National Cheer Association camp competition on July 31-August 3 at the Great Wolf Lodge in Centralia. The returning academic state champions from 2016 also had five girls nominated for all-American honors who participated in tryouts, including Niki Green, Emmah Bryne, Erin Brewer, Alison Stark and Calyna Saphine. The Falcons were also awarded three blue ribbons from daily evaluations.

Brewer, a junior, was named to the all-American team. Head coach Savannah Turner said Brewer’s accomplishment is a “very high honor.”

“I’ve never been to camp or competed or anything,” Brewer said. “It was an eye-opening experience. I enjoyed it so much. I loved all the awards and how we won, so it was kind of fun.”

Bryne, a sophomore, said she competed in cheer for five years before joining the Falcon squad this past year. She was happy to be back in her element.

“It was really nice to be able to compete again and win,” Bryne said.

The team learned multiple routines and selected one to perform in front of a panel of judges. The routine included a cheer and stunt.

The Falcons haven’t attended a camp since 2013. This summer’s camp was intended as prep for the season, while also introducing newcomers to stunts, which typically involve entries, forming pyramids and dismounts. The performances require dexterity and concentration, among other skill sets.

Turner said there were five new girls on the team who were able to learn new routines, while it provided leadership skills and the foundations for building a team. Bryne felt the team’s enthusiasm was a major factor in them winning the camp.

“We were very loud, we were sharp, we were together,” Bryne said. “I think when you bond with a team for so long, it’s easier to be in sync like that. We definitely bonded a lot over that trip and I think everybody saw that.”

“We just performed our hearts out,” Brewer added.

Both Brewer and Bryne have aspirations of becoming college cheerleaders. Earning all-American honors and nominations are a step in the right direction, they said.

“You just have to have the skills to do college cheer, obviously,” Brewer said. “For me, I need to work on my tumbling.”

“There’s very high standards,” Bryne added.

Earning another academic state championship is a goal for the Falcons, who said last year’s accomplishment was a “surprise.”

“I am always pushing my girls to do their best in everything they do and academics is higher on my list then just being a great cheerleader,” Turner said. “They work so hard and I know it is an achievable goal.”

Brewer and Bryne both said it’s nice to have dispelled negative stereotypes that cheerleaders aren’t academics.

“It was freaking awesome,” Brewer said.

“Teachers were surprised,” Bryne added.

Brewer, who finished last year with a 3.98 grade point average, also said that despite the accomplishment, their fellow students “didn’t really bat an eye at it.” She said they’ll continue being strong participants in class just as they have been in the past.

“I think since we won that, I think it showed that we raise our hands in class,” Brewer said.