After a year of preparation and gruelling repetition, it all comes down to two minutes and 30 seconds on the mat.
Ecole Argyle Secondary’s Gold Team won bronze last Sunday at the 2023 ICU World School Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Fla. First place in the large varsity non-tumbling division was Quebec’s Academie Saint Louis-Arsenal Senior, and second place went to Rosemount High School in the U.S.
The squad of Argyle girls travelled to the ESPN Sports Center, where they competed among 1,200 registered teams.
Co-program director and coach Kammie Hossein Zadeh – who runs the program with fellow co-director/coach Chelsea Forbes – said she’s extremely proud of how the team performed, especially given some last-minute challenges.
“We actually had some medical emergencies on the day of the competition, and we had to postpone our warmup time a little bit,” she said.
“We didn’t know if we were going to have our athlete on the floor until two minutes before our warmup time,” Zadeh continued. But the team stayed positive, and at the last second, the athlete said she was good to go.
“It was a lot of high emotions. And the team was able to come together to really trust each other in that moment. It was really a miracle for us, for the team to go out there and perform such a good routine, considering those circumstances. We couldn’t have asked for anything better,” she said.
They performed a pre-final routine last Saturday, and a final on Sunday. According to the results, they had minimal deductions and pulled out an even higher score on the second day.
“What they’ve accomplished they’re going to remember for rest of their life,” Zadeh said. “Not many people have the opportunity to represent their country at the world level.”
The Argyle coach underscored the immense pressure put on the young team, which spends an entire season – practising four times a week since last March with no breaks – preparing a single routine.
“You’re practising, you’re perfecting, you’re creating this routine, all for a trip and you only get two minutes and 30 seconds to actually make that count,” she said. “A lot of comes down to just that one moment.”
Over the years, cheer has evolved from sporting-adjacent entertainment to an intense athletic sport with a massive industry behind it. The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France will mark the first year that cheerleading is included in the international pinnacle of sport.
Argyle is one of the few high schools to offer a competitive cheer program in the Lower Mainland, and to keep up with the growing momentum of the sport. Secondary school-level cheerleaders typically move on to all-star programs and then post-secondary teams.
Recently, the popularity of Netflix’s hit show Cheer has put the new age of the sport more into the public eye.
“One thing that we absolutely loved about Cheer on Netflix getting to be so popular is that people got to see sort of how important every single athlete is,” Zadeh explained. “And some of the challenges that all cheerleaders go through.”
“Yes, it is a little too Hollywood and some points that the series brought out are what most cheerleaders would consider to be the toxic side of cheer, not so much the reality or what people would rather have as part of their team. But still, it’s shone a light on the challenges that most of the athletes go through,” she said.
Watch the Argyle Piper's pre-final routine