January 30, 2016 8:43 pm
Updated: February 1, 2016 4:04 pm

500 athletes at first cheerleading competition in Southern Alberta

WATCH ABOVE: Hundreds of cheerleaders invaded Lethbridge on Saturday for the Imagine Cheer and Dance Competition. Erik Mikkelsen reports.

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LETHBRIDGE – The Enmax Centre was full of flips, kicks and tumbles as athletes pulled out all the stops for the Imagine Cheer and Dance competition Saturday.

Organizer Stanley Lopez said that this type of cheerleading isn’t what you see in movies, or on the sidelines of football games.

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“These girls are high intensity athletes. They tumble, they dance, they lift,” Lopez said. “What I like to tell people is it’s like a two and a half minute sprint with a weight on your back, and you have to smile and you can not look back.”

The competition featured over 40 teams from across Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia and brought in over 500 athletes.

Among those athletes was 11-year-old Brooklyn Hunt from Lethbridge.

“I [had] heard of cheerleading before, but then I searched up YouTube videos of it and I’m like, ‘I really want to be like that [doing] back flips,” Hunt said.

After five years of cheerleading, Hunt said most of her friends are from her team, and they are always looking out for each other.

“If I’m having a down day they are always there to cheer me up and they always make me smile,” Hunt added.

Organizers said this is the first cheer competition of its kind and of its size in Southern Alberta, and judging on the amount of spectators and athletes that showed up, it certainly will not be the last.

Lopez added that all cheerleaders recognize that cheerleading is a team sport and they have to work together to succeed.

“You really need everyone to complete a routine, it’s not like in other sports where you can have your alternates come in second, you really need your full team, and you need full cooperation at every practice to make this sport happen,” Lopez said. “I think that’s the really big thing that makes them come to the sport. They feel like they can leave the craziness of their lives, and just come to a place where they feel safe, wanted and confident.”

Hunt said when anyone asks her about joining a team, she tells them all one thing;

“Definitely do it before you’re too old to do it,” Hunt said. “Because it’s really fun, and I just don’t know what I’d be doing with out it.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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