February 12, 2006
Tifton -- The competition cheerleading program at the Dream-It Gymnastics Center in Tifton has only been in existence for two years, but the Dream-It cheerleaders have already captured an impressive five national titles in a rapidly growing sport.
Dream-It cheerleading coach Justin Rutherford says the program has come a long way in two years.
"When I started here we had a bunch of cartwheels. We started working the hand-springs and all the similar things you see the college girls do, and here we are a year-and-a-half later with 6-year-olds throwing back-flips and showing out."
Freshman Julieanne Jones says, "We have great coaches, and I think it's awesome in two years we can pull together and do so much."
The 40 girls in the program range in ages from 3 to 23, and they say it takes a lot of work.
"We come three days a week, and we work our hardest," says eight-year-old Spencer Hammond.
Nine-year-old Isabelle Prostko adds, "It helps me do stuff, like with my tumbling I get better every day."
The sport of cheerleading is growing.
"I think people underestimate it, and it's come along way. It's really good, and it's definitely a sport," Jones said with a smile.
Rutherford adds, "Cheerleading is getting bigger and bigger, and it's finally being recognized as a sport in the south. You can come in with no skills all the way up to double fulls, and we've got a place for you."
The Dream-It cheerleaders will be looking for another national title next month at the Spirit of the South Competition.
"It's supposed to be huge," says Rutherford. "It has a bracket-style format, so it's like March Madness, except for cheerleading. It's the only one like that in the country, and we're hoping to fight our way to first."
The Spirit of the South competition will take place in March at Kennesaw State University.