Updated 03/15/2013 10:49 PM
North Country cheerleaders compete in Massena
Spirits were high in Massena as nine area high school cheer squads competed Friday. While the debate continues on whether or not cheerleading should be considered a sport, our Barry Wygel tells us to the athletes who compete, there is no doubt in their mind.
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MASSENA, N.Y. -- "We cheer for football, basketball, then we have our competition season," said Jessalyn Clary, Massena cheerleading coach.
Even though the cheer season is beginning to wind down, there is no shortage of energy.
"We practice every day all wee, and we have weekend practices, like eight hours," said Breonna Mitchell, Massena cheer captain.
And all that hard work shows off. But cheerleaders say it's not just about competing. Their team becomes their family.
"I've grown close with all of my cheerleaders. We are not only a team, we are a family. It just makes you feel better when you have support behind you," said Mitchell.
But for all the practices, competitions, jumps and flips that come with cheerleading, it is not recognized as a sport by the state, something coaches and athletes say needs to change.
"I definitely think in New York State, it should be recognized as a sport. They put a lot of work and a lot of effort into their routines. The gymnastics, the dancing and everything that goes along with it," said Clary.
"You're lifting up girls in the air. You're not throwing a ball. You also have to catch them, their life is in your hands," said Mitchell.
Even though the athletes feel they don't get the recognition they deserve, they say they can't imagine doing anything else.
"It's really fun. It's good experience. It gets you in front of people, builds your confidence," said Jeanette Rochefort, Massena cheer co-captain.
The cheerleading squads travel all across New York and the country competing in various tournaments, hoping to one day make it to the national finals.
There has recently been a push in Albany to recognize cheerleading at a state level.