Two minutes and 30 seconds is all Kitimat’s Melissa Yeoh and her fellow teammates have to impress the judges at this weekend’s ICU World Cup Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida.
Melissa and the rest of the athletes on the Thompson Rivers University (TRU) cheerleading WolfPack team will compete against teams from around the world at the Championships.
They secured a spot in the competition at the 2019 True North Championships when the WolfPack program received a full paid bid to attend what is dubbed the most competitive and coveted university cheer competition.
WolfPack is one of only eight Canadian teams to receive a bid, which covers their entry fee and accommodation costs. The athletes have to cover their airfare and their food.
This is the first time that the relatively new TRU WolfPack program has been invited to attend the Cheerleading Championship.
The 15-member team will use the same routine at the Championships that it uses for all its 2020 spring competitions. Each team is required to perform a two minute and thirty second-routine, consisting of music, counts and chanting.
The emphasis is on making a big impression, showing all their skills – tumbling, dancing and chanting – in a fun, high-energy routine, which requires a lot of stamina and endurance, an athletic sport that requires working out in the gym, doing weight and cardio training.
Born in Kitimat, Melissa started her schooling at St. Anthony’s, graduating from MEMSS before moving down south to study respiratory therapy at TRU.
A keen gymnast, Melissa had never really thought of taking up cheerleading until she saw the sport being performed at university.
“I started gymnastics when I was about two years old carried on with it throughout my schooling. Cheerleading was never really a thing in Kitimat,” said Melissa. “Gymnastics definitely helping with tumbling part of cheerleading.”
She said the biggest change switching from gymnastics to cheerleading was competing as part of a team, not as an individual anymore.
“As long as you have a good attitude and you’re willing to try something new, cheerleading is a fun experience. I have made a lot of friends on the team.”
She said the biggest challenge with cheerleading is learning new terms, routines and stunts, none of which she had encountered during her gymnastics career.
Her advice for youngsters wanting to get into cheerleading is to have a positive attitude.
“You don’t need experience in dance or gymnastics. The main thing the coaches look for is attitude,” said Melissa, who intends competing throughout her university career.