By Linda Dillman
Things were hopping in the Indian Trail Elementary gymnasium for three days in July when Canal Winchester Schools hosted a cheerleading camp.
Athletes from four districts—Hamilton Township, Lakewood, River Valley and Harvest Prep—along with Canal Winchester high school and middle school squads, learned new skills and perfected old ones for eight hours each day under the watchful eye of National Cheerleader Association staffers.
“Canal Winchester is a host site for the National Cheerleaders Association camp,” said Canal Winchester Coach Jodi Klamfoth. “They provide the staff and camp curriculum. We have been a host site for several years.”
When asked why the district was selected as a host site, Klamfoth said, “Aside from our willingness to host the camp, we have a great facility with air conditioning and cheer mats and are easily accessible.”
Approximately 200 cheerleaders in grades 7-12 participated in the July 9-11 camp. They learned cheers, chants, dances, crowd leading, team bonding, leadership and stunting maneuvers.
Canal Winchester cheerleaders and a quartet of cheer boosters helped set up the venue, served as hostesses and provided lunch for the hungry campers. Parent volunteers Jen Nack and Deanna Sorrell arrived early to prepare the noon meals.
Sorrell, who cheered for Klamfoth when she was in school and is now mother to a second generation cheerleader, said the food was donated and purchased by the cheer booster organization.
“The coaches have enough to think about during the camp. I don’t want them to worry about serving lunch, too,” said Sorrell.
For cheerleaders participating in the camp, like Canal Winchester High School seniors Meryssa Lomphoy, Courtney Cowgill and Jaelynn Hairston, the camp is a chance to learn new chants and cheers to encourage crowds to get into the action at games and to support fellow sports teams.
It also enables them to share the camp experience with like-minded athletes, who are familiar with the rigors of practices, games and competitions while still attending school.
“Cheerleaders train like any other athlete,” said Klamfoth. “They participate in weight training and conditioning year round. They are expected to perform athletic skills like jumps, stunts, and tumbling, as well as performing cheers, chants, and dances.”
Lomphoy said cheerleaders go through conditioning similar to the teams they cheer for on the sidelines and, like other sports groups, need to be in the right shape and have the stamina to perform as a team and look like a single, cohesive unit.
Canal Winchester cheerleaders are also involved in community service activities. In addition to cheering for football and both boys and girls basketball, they also support other sports by attending events such as soccer, tennis, wrestling competitions.
In addition to summer and after-school practices, cheering at home and away games and supporting the local community, Canal Winchester also has competitive cheer teams at both the middle and high school levels.
“They work hard and most people probably don’t know about all of the events that they attend, how they support the school and their communities,” said Klamfoth.
Hairston enjoys being a cheerleader, feeding off the energy of a crowd and serving as a mentor to younger, aspiring cheerleaders.
“I enjoy working with younger cheerleaders during our mini-clinic and helping to make an impact on their lives,” said Hairston, who has cheered for Canal Winchester for six years.
Cowgill said squads spend many hours donating their time at community events including festivals and at larger venues such as the Ohio State Fair. She said the teams also sponsor a Cheer for a Cure cancer fundraiser in January.
While cheerleaders from the five schools spent hours together at camp, come this fall, they’ll often be on opposite sides of the field, but, in a few instances, share the limelight together when displaying skills learned at camp.
“Canal is local for us,” said Hamilton Township Coach Kimberly Hopkins, “and we have a good relationship with them. We’ll get together with Jodi (Klamfoth) and have the girls perform all together on the court since they learned the same cheers at camp. We made the decision to come to camp here and not hold one by ourselves because the environment here is good and it is good for the girls to meet kids from other schools and have healthy competitions.”