Cheer Power rocks the region
HUNTINGTON -- Kelly Knipp played the role of personal assistant for her two granddaughters Sunday at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
The grandmother, decked out in a purple Jill's Tumble World T-shirt and matching fuzzy boots, made sure the girls looked their best for their cheering event during the American Cheer Power Fabulous 50s Rock-N-Roll Open Championship.
"Between my daughter, my sister and myself, this is a full-time job," Knipp said. "But we wouldn't have it any other way."
Knipp's granddaughters were among the 1,000 cheerleaders and dancers from West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Maryland who poured in and out of the arena throughout the day with another 3,000 to 4,000 parents, siblings and coaches in tow.
Some traveled a few hundred miles for the regional competition, which many will use to perfect their routines for next month's national championship in Columbus, Ohio, said Danny Boze, a spokesman for American Cheer Power.
The cheerleaders ranged in age from 3 to 18 and competed on five different skill levels in various tumbling and dance routines.
"Once I was introduced to it 12 years ago, it convinced me really quick that this is a sport," Boze said. "It takes years of training and skill to perform the routines that the older girls can do."
Of the 80 teams that competed Sunday, only a handful represented school squads. Most were all-star teams that were formed for the sole purpose of cheerleading competitions, Boze said.
Knipp's granddaughters, ages 8 and 10, have been training at Jill's Tumble World in Chesapeake, Ohio, for the past six years. Knipp helps shuttle the girls back and forth for their six hours of weekly practice.
The training is serious and requires hard work and full attention from the girls, but it's not about winning or losing, Knipp said.
"That's not the important thing," she said. "It's about learning to respect their teammates and other competitors."
Knipp also said she appreciates the Christian atmosphere under which her granddaughters train at Jill's Tumble World.
This was the fifth year for American Cheer Power's regional competition in Huntington. There is no reason to believe the partnership will end anytime soon, Boze said. The arena is perfect for the competition's needs because of its close proximity to hotels and a variety of restaurants, and its new seats are an added bonus, he said.
"Cheer teams are huge in this part of the country," Boze said. "Huntington makes sense for us because it's a central location for many of the competitors that come to this event."
Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.
American Cheer Power will release a full list of results on Monday, Feb. 25. Check out Tuesday's edition of The Herald-Dispatch for a list of results.