Members of the Marion M. Graham Collegiate Pom team took on the world and came back with medals around their necks.
The 12-member squad walked away with silver medals after placing second in varsity pom during the 2020 World School Performance Cheerleading Championships held Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Orlando, Fla. The team also received a second place national title for Canada.
The team performed twice during the world competition. The initial performance allowed the squad to receive feedback from the judges while the second was an opportunity for the routine to reflect the suggested improvements. Scoring and placement was based on the two performances combined.
Coach Kristen Robertson said Marion Graham was the first high school team from Saskatchewan to receive a world competition bid, thanks to the squad's 2018-19 season when it was city and provincial champions.
"There's nothing like when you step on that mat with your teammates and you perform," Robertson said prior to the Florida competition. "It is such a rush and a thrill and the adrenaline keeps going, especially when you walk off the mat and feel successful and know that all of that hard work has paid off. It's so exciting to watch them and see that enthusiasm and excitement in their eyes."
Preparations for pom season began in late October, but with the world event on the schedule the team added daily noon-hour practices to its regular twice-weekly afterschool workouts in the weeks leading up to the Florida trip.
"We focused quite a bit on our skills and technique this season," team member Alexa Kliewer said prior to the event. "The routine this year is really challenging compared to last year. It is really fast, quick changes and there are a lot of jumps and different aspects like ripples. It is really fun dancing with a good group of people as well, your friends."
For team members, the opportunity to perform on a world stage is a definite plus, but the overall experience provided by the sport and Marion Graham's program is something they have embraced.
Team members come from different dance and gymnastic backgrounds and the opportunity to bring each dancer's skills together as one and compete as a team is what makes pom special, said team member Amelia Gagnon.
"I really like the whole performance element. You put on a show. You are presenting a theme, you have music that goes along with the theme and all together you have the technical elements, the difficulty, the performance, the teamwork — all of that are really great elements in pom," Gagnon said.
Pom is a dance-based sport — named for the poms used by competitors. It differs from cheer because it does not include the stunting that is part of cheer routines, Robertson explained.
"It's really nice to see this sport growing, especially at Marion Graham which is a small school," she said. "It's so nice to see how successful we have been. We want to build it (the program) stronger each year and get more people involved.