Seaholm gains competitive cheer squad

By: Sue Teggart | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 19, 2011

 The Birmingham Seaholm cheerleading team shows off its stunting during its first competitive cheer competition at the OAA Blue Division meet. The Maples finished fifth, scoring 565.7864 points.

The Birmingham Seaholm cheerleading team shows off its stunting during its first competitive cheer competition at the OAA Blue Division meet. The Maples finished fifth, scoring 565.7864 points.

Photo by Donna Agusti

BIRMINGHAM — After a five-year hiatus, cheerleaders at Birmingham Seaholm have something to, well, cheer about.

The Maples formed a competitive squad for the first time since 2002, when the team existed for just two seasons before disbanding after losing its coach. Even before then, interest in cheerleading at Seaholm was on the decline in 1999.

In recent years, competitive cheer has gained popularity, with 328 cheer programs across the state compared to 148 in 2001.

Forming the team was the brainchild of junior Briana Jones, who “begged” Seaholm Athletic Director Aaron Frank.

“I wrote letters to the athletic department, set meetings, got people to come out for tryouts and got a coach. Oh yeah, and I had 500 kids sign a petition,” Jones said about her effort to bring cheer to Seaholm. “I’ve been cheering since I was little, and when I got here, I was surprised we didn’t have one.”

“The students got (cheerleading) back,” said coach Jennifer Szura, who cheered at Madison Heights Lamphere. “There was a group of students who wanted it back, and they just kept asking and asking the athletic director.

“I heard through the rumor mill that there was a team starting, and I went into the athletic director’s office saying, ‘I want to do it.’”

After more than a decade without a consistent program, this season also marks the second year of sideline cheerleading at Seaholm. The Maples boast 12 cheerleaders altogether; eight cheer competitively.

“They have all cheered in some way before,” Szura said. “I would say never have they done MHSAA competitive cheer before.”

“We started off struggling, but we’ve improved a lot,” said senior Jasmine Ware.

Competitive cheer differs from sideline in that it is more structured. During competitions, cheerleaders are judged on their technique and skills.

“They’re adjusting really well, and I think its because they wanted to do it,” Szura said. “It was their choice, so they’re very motivated to do well.”

While the squad still has work to do tightening its routines and cleaning up its skills, Szura said, the Maples have improved “immensely” since sideline season.

“The stunting has improved tenfold,” she said. “They’ve all participated in gymnastics to gain more skills. For a small team of girls, they work really well together.”

In the squad’s first Oakland Activities Association Blue Division meet, it finished in fifth place, scoring 565.7864 points.

Szura said the focus is building from the first meet and growing the program.

“I would like the program to be long-lasting,” Szura said. “Cheerleading is great for girls who like to do a little bit of everything. You get to perform; you get to be athletic — but it’s also girlie. It’s well-rounded, and if you’re willing to work hard, it’s a great sport for girls.”