Oakdale cheerleading squad wins national championship


submitted photo • An Oakdale-based cheerleading squad made up of 14 metro area girls recently won its division at the All Star Cheer Competition National Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Lightning, a cheerleading squad out of Oakdale, won the Recreation Level Three Division All Star Cheer Competition National Championship, which was held recently in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The squad is made up of 14 cheerleaders aged 10 to 18, including residents of Oakdale, Lake Elmo and North St. Paul, among other cities in the metro area.

“This group of girls worked really hard,” said Carla Ekwall, the head coach and owner of Cheer Xtreme, which organized the team. She added the team scored 94.86 out of 100 with its April 7 performance at the national championship.

Cheerleader Ashlynn Ackfeld, a 16-year-old from Lake Elmo, said her favorite part of Lightning’s routine this year was the pyramid — she was in the top center of it. 

“I think it’s really cool because instead of everyone doing their own thing, we’re all together in the same spot, and it won’t go right unless every single person works together for it,” she said.

 

Judging

Akfeld was a gymnast for 10 years prior to picking up cheerleading. Although this is her fourth year cheerleading, it is only her first year with Cheer Xtreme. Akfeld is a former member of an Eagan team and also cheers for Stillwater High School.

“I think of cheerleading as a combination of, like, acrobatic gymnastics and power tumbling and dancing all put together,” she said.

The team’s division was determined by how advanced the squad’s tumbling skills are, Ekwall said. She added that to compete in the third division, 80 percent of the team needed to be able to perform a standing back tuck — a backflip.

Ekwall explained that to compete, Lightning had to perform a 150-second routine to a musical medley. The cheer routine had to include a tumble run, which shows the judges that it can complete at the level of tumbling that is required for its division. 

The routine also needed to include a pyramid, which requires the cheerleaders to be touching while up in stunts, three eight-counts of dance and smooth transitions between the different elements.

Each team starts with 100 points, and as it performs, points are deducted for errors and illegal moves, resulting in a final score.

 

Every cheerleader matters to the team

Akfeld said one of the biggest challenges Lightning faced this season was its individual members not always being able to make practices, something she said was caused most often by injuries.

“Whenever one person can’t come it kind of affects the whole team,” she said, explaining that in order to practice pyramids and some of the other stunts, the team often needs every member.

Lightning’s success at the national competition was despite some last minute changes to the routine, made because some of its members weren’t able to compete, Akfeld said.

“We worked really hard going into it knowing that there was going to be some difficulties,” she said. “Seeing our team come together and be able to perform ... our best, with changing the routine the week of, was really awesome.”

The National Competition marked the end of the almost-year-round cheerleading season, but Ekwall said the recruitment for next year’s teams has already started. In addition to Lightning, Cheer Xtreme has a squad for cheerleaders ages 5 through 11 called Thunder, and another squad for cheerleaders with special needs called Storm.

For more information about the teams, contact Carla Ekwall at 651-242-7131 or visit the Cheer Xtreme Facebook page. Sign-up events will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. May 20 and June 3 at Crowley’s Gymnastics Center, 1310 Gentry Ave. N. in Oakdale.

 

– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com

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