Champion Cheerleaders

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Everyone around town knows the warehouse looking building onBrookhaven Street to be the Gym of Dreams, home to tumblers and allsorts of aerial athletes. However, the Gym of Dreams could bereferred to as the gym of champions after a successful 2010season.

Last year’s senior team proved to be one of the best in thestate, placing first in every competition including the WorldwideSpirit Association Grand Nationals in New Orleans, La. and wasnamed Grand Champions at a national competition in Pensacola, Fla.,having the highest score in the entire contest.

“Some years I say, ‘What am I doing it right,'” said coach andgym owner Duane Meilstrup. “This is one of those years where I sayI might be doing something right.”

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The level five, which refers to the difficulty of routines,squad was comprised of 23 members – seven males and 16 females -aged 12 to 18.

The teammates were from area counties including Lincoln,Lawrence and Pike counties. Several local schools were alsorepresented on the squad, including Brookhaven High School,Brookhaven Academy, Enterprise, Loyd Star and West Lincoln.

“The chemistry this year was better than most years,” saidMeilstrup. “That makes all the difference.”

The senior squad practiced one to two times a week for about twohours each session.

“Basically at that level and that age we have athletes that areon other squads who have developed great skills and they catch onquick and work hard,” said Meilstrup.

Meilstrup added that having experienced squad members allowedhim to focus on the details of routines and not as much inareas.

For several squad members the flipping will continue beyondtheir high school days.

Twelve athletes from the Gym of Dreams received collegescholarships, seven of which are at a Division I school. Three willgo on to cheer at Louisiana State University, two at the Universityof Southern Mississippi, one at Mississippi State University andone at Kentucky.

“I’ve been super proud of them this year,” the coach said. “Wealways try to make an impact on their lives in everything wedo.”

Smaller units at the gym have also accomplished big things thisyear.

The Tiny All Stars, aged 3 to 5, recently won first place at thenational competition in Pensacola, Fla. and the other three squadsat the gym have also placed in the top three during competitionsthis past season.

“They all start tiny, but the goal is to make them good enoughto do those big squads,” said Meilstrup. “That’s our goal foreverybody so they can make a run at becoming a collegecheerleader.”

As the previous season has tumbled away, there could still beplenty to flip about in the future.

Meilstrup thinks things look promising for the next seniorseason after recent tryouts. The senior squad lost four members,but he said the team has acquired four new members – keeping thenumbers about the same as the previous season.

“We just kind of reloaded,” he said. “It looks like our squadmay be even stronger than last year as far as their skill levels atthe beginning of the year.”

Meilstrup has been tumbling since the age of 6 and had theopportunity to play football for Mississippi College, but decidedto skip athletics until someone said recommended he try out for thecheerleading squad.

He went on to win three Division Two national championships atMC. His resume also includes 20 years of coaching experience andhas been running the Gym of Dreams for the past 7.5 years.

Even after all his years around the sport, the previous seasonwas something special for Meilstrup.

“It’s ranked way up there for coaching achievements for me,” hesaid.