New Elite Cheer teams compete at state

Jennifer Freeman
Our team is Dynamite: From left are: Sinclair Stinson, Josie Wells, Hanna Kulavic, Autumn Anzell, Natalie Bielema, Kira Pamson, Alysabeth Buck, Rachael Shurman, Paige Holthe, Marissa Iverson, Amanda Koehl and Bree Harrison.

Hillary Kulavic, 8, seems to have no fear of heights or any trust issues as she allows her friends to grip her feet and lift her high over their heads. She strikes a pose from her high perch and, suddenly, falls trustingly backward into the waiting arms of her teammates.

“It scares my mom,” she said.

Hillary is a member of the Washington Park District’s new Elite Competitive Cheer team of third- through fifth- grade students called The Dazzlers. Another new team this year, The Dynamite, is for sixth- through eighth-grade students.

“My older sister is a cheerleader and I see her at basketball games and it looked fun,” Hillary said.

The Dazzlers and Dynamite traveled to Northern Illinois University last weekend to participate in the Illinois Recreational Cheer Association’s state championship competition. 

The Dazzlers placed second and the Dynamite placed fourth in their division.

The teams’ coaches, Tabatha Waid, Nikki Colli, Jody Yakle and Mark Peiffer, have a mixture of tumbling and cheerleading training.

Waid, who now runs Cay’s Academy of Tumbling after her mother retired, said the teams were started to give the children already in tumbling programs at the park district a chance to compete.

The program also allows participants to gain cheer leading experience before entering junior high or high school.

“We follow the same rules as the high school competitive cheer association,” Waid said.

In order to qualify for the state championship competition, each team had to place first in at least one qualifying competition. The Dazzlers qualified at their very first competition in Elgin and the

Dynamite qualified at a competition in Mundelein.

“The teams have done really well, a lot better than people expected them to as a first-year team,” Waid said explaining that their goal of going into the championship competition was simply to have no deductions taken from their score for breaking rules.

Although they have transferred many skills from tumbling to cheer leading, team members have had to learn some new and difficult moves.

Jessica Shurman, 9, a Dazzler with a lot of tumbling experience, said the most difficult part of their routine for her is a combination of moves.

“I do two flip flops, a back and an aerial,” Jessica said, explaining the series of gymnastic moves, with and without hands, she does.

Jessica is part of the base while Hillary is at the top. For Hillary, the most challenging move is a liberty extension.

“I hold one knee up and balance on one foot in the air,” Hillary said.

The theme of their routine is “time travel” and they dance to a mix of several songs including Year 3,000, Space Jam and the Twilight Zone.

Now that the competitive season is over, the Dazzlers and Dynamite will perform at basketball games at grade schools and high schools around the area. They will also perform at Eureka college.