Leslie Anderson's team didn't have to travel far to win an international competition, and they had technology to thank.
The Hayden's Gym Senior Teal squad was named Grand Champion of the International All Levels Championships after winning a technically savvy competition in Atlanta on May 22.
The competitions were held at four locations throughout the country, with the top teams qualifying for the finals.
Instead of requiring the 15 teams from throughout the United States and Canada to travel to compete at one location, judges viewed each squad's routine over the Internet to determine a winner.
A production company was on hand at each site to film and produce the two-minute, 30-second clips.
Hayden's routine earned it the title of grand champion of Level 4.
"There's no way all these teams are going to travel and be in one place," said Anderson, the Senior Teal coach. "Obviously, with the economy and everything, people are cutting back. They figured (a) different way to have competition without the traveling."
The performance capped a season in which the Senior Teal team won numerous other titles. The squad took first at UCF Nationals in Columbia in March and was first at Cheersport Nationals in Atlanta in February. The team also was first at the American Royale Nationals, Cheersport Grand Championships, WSF Nationals and New Year's Jam.
The competition season at Hayden's started in December and ran through April. But the work for the team began long before that.
The next Senior Teal team was chosen after spring break and will practice and condition throughout the summer and into the fall.
"It's a year-round sport," Anderson said. "If you take any downtime, you have a tendency to lose skills. When you're working with teams and trying to get stunt groups together, you just got to keep going at it."
Anderson said almost all of those who participate on the All Star cheer quads also cheer at area high schools, the majority from Columbia County. But she noted that there was a big distinction between what the All Star quads do and what is done at the high school level.
"It's not high school cheerleading," she said. "We still have the stigma or stereotype that we're rah-rah with the pom poms. It's not even close."
Anderson characterized the routines as nonstop action, complete with choreography, loud music and a high energy level.
The teams travel often and, at the major events, have the opportunity for a lot of exposure. The Cheerleading Worlds, the top competition for Level 5, is televised on ESPN.
"It's very competitive," Anderson said. "I think that's why the girls enjoy it."
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