HOHENFELS, Germany AcE+' Hohenfels Middle / High School students Meagen Dunleavy and Josh Rivera somersaulted over the competition to be named All-American cheerleaders at the Universal Cheerleading Associations cheerleading camp in Kaiserslautern.

"All-American is a qualification you can earn at UCA camps. You audition for it, and basically it's like making an all-star team in the states," said Dunleavy.

"Cheerleading 20 years ago was standing up in front of people with a pom-pom yelling go, fight, win!", said Mini De Lamarter-Lefebvre, coach of the Hohenfels Middle/High School cheerleading team.

Things have changed a lot since then.

Today's cheerleader's perform complicated choreographed routines as well as intricate stunts often involving being flung over their team mates heads and spinning back down.

But that's one of the very things that drew 11th-grader Rivera to the sport.

"I like to tumble," Rivera said, "and being this far away from the states, the only opportunity for tumbling is cheerleading."

"And I like being the center of attention," Rivera said. "And being the only guy on the team is definitely the way to go."

Teammate Dunleavy, a senior, has a background in dance, but wanted to try something new when she began high school.

"I like to perform so I decided to give cheerleading a whirl," Dunleavy said. "I really like the team aspect of it. I like being able to work with people for a common goal."

UCA conducts training camps across the country with literally thousands of participants. While the focus is actual cheerleading techniques, the camps also stress teambuilding and leadership development.

"It was exhausting," De Lamarter-Lefebvre said. "They're up early, they're running around all day, they're busting their butts, they're working hard. They have to learn things really fast, and then they have to perform it."

"When you're at a cheering camp you're on a tight schedule, so everyone does the practice at the same time," Dunleavy said. Over 200 participants gather in a central area to learn various cheers and multiple dances, she said.

"The first day we learn the majority of the material, and the second day we tried out for All-American," said Dunleavy.

Coaches bear the responsibility of choosing which team members will compete in the All-American, Rivera said.

"There're about 27 teams in Europe," he added.

"Only 20 percent of any camp is eligible for All-American," Dunleavy said. "So no matter how many girls try out only 20 percent of the girls can make it."

"We had to perform the camp dance, which was about 45 seconds long," Dunleavy explained. "Then a jump of our choice, and we were scored on that based on UCA guidelines."

"You're judged on perfection," Rivera said. "Perfection of jump, choreography, and the cheer."

"The height of your jump," Dunleavy added. "And the sharpness of your movements - how fast you can hit it, and how it looks when you hit it."

But technique isn't the only criteria in a sport that focuses on creating excitement. Both Dunleavy and Rivera stressed the importance of spirit.

"We are cheerleaders," Dunleavy said. "You've got to be able to smile, and you've got to be able to perform."

Being outgoing is not much of a stretch for this multi-talented young woman who serves as the student body president, editor or the school yearbook, and a member of the National Honor Society.

Volume is also important, she said. "How loud you are makes a big difference when you're out on the field."

The new style of cheerleading also requires a bit more physical fitness than generations past, De Lamarter-Lefebvre said.

"A lot of it is endurance and strength," said De Lamarter-Lefebvre. "We work a lot of upper body strength."

"Coach is famous for pushups," Rivera laughed.

Besides stretching and working out, Rivera put in additional training by joining a gymnastics class during the off-season.

"I think it helped a lot," he said, adding, "When you do something extra, and then you come to the cheerleading squad and you're like, wow this actually paid off."

As All-Americans, Rivera and Dunleavy are eligible to perform in the New Year's Day Parade in London, England before an estimated crowd of 1 million.

"It's a good feeling," Dunleavy said, "to be able to go to a camp and to perform to the best of my capability and to know that I was in the top 20 percent. It's really an awesome feeling. "

"It means that I'm good at what I do, and all the work that I've been putting into this has paid off," Rivera said.

"Nobody has ever won an All-American for the school, so you can imagine how happy they are," Rivera said. "So for two people to make it is something really big!"

"Our administration is very proud," Dunleavy said. She added that due to Hohenfels' small size, they sometimes have trouble competing against larger schools.

"So with Josh and I both coming back with All-American, that was a huge recognition factor," she said. "And it shows that we are putting leaders out there, we are able to perform, and that we've got a lot of talent."

"I feel really happy that they actually think that we're cool," Rivera said. "They actually appreciate our work."

De Lamarter-Lefebvre certainly does.

"I've got two All-Americans!" she said. "These are motivated, outgoing, awesome students!"

HMHS Principal Daniel Mendoza agreed. "There are only two types of students at this school. The really good kids, and the really, really good kids."

Page last updated Wed December 8th, 2010 at 08:43