Two young athletes are headed to one of the most prestigious international competitions in cheerleading: the Summit Championship at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida from April 27th to 30th. Layla Pineo, age 15, and Morgann Bolduc, 14, both of Sturgeon Falls, will be competing as part of the under-16 team from Apollo Gymnastics in North Bay. “It’s an international event, and it’s by-far the most prestigious event for kids that are high-school age and under,” describes the team’s coach, Shannon Parks.
Pineo has been competing in cheerleading for 4 years while Bolduc is just 2 years into the sport. “These events are for competitive cheerleading, it’s for acrobatics, stunts and tumbling set to music. Teams are evaluated predominantly on stunting, then tumbling and routine composition are secondary,” explains Parks. It’s a very technical sport, and the coach is confident in the ability of her team.
“They’re very strong, but we also stay in our lane, so to speak. We know what they’re good at and we stick with that, we don’t try to overdo it. It’s a balance, because if you make an error, it’s such a severe deduction, you have to be very careful to stick with what you do well. The kids are very strong technically, yes, but the routine has also been designed for them strategically, making sure that they stay with skills that are very solid [for them],” explains the coach of 30-years.
The bid to go to the Summit Championship was earned during the Spirit Sports Competition in Ottawa, back on March 4th and 5th. The Apollo Gymnastics team won top scores for their age and level, as well as the highest score across all divisions at this event. This qualified them for the paid Summit bid, an invitation that waives the cost of registration fees and week-long accommodations at Disney World in Florida. Parks estimates the value of a paid bid to be roughly $24,000 US dollars. “To be able to go to Summit, you have to win the bid. So, you go to a competition, and they say the top 4, 5 or 6 scoring teams are going to get an invitation to the Summit. Getting an invitation is a really big deal. Then, there are a handful of competitions across the country, maybe 3 across all of Canada, that offer a paid bid to go to Summit,” explains Parks, stressing that “it’s a really big deal just to get invited to go, with no money attached, so never mind winning the paid bid.”
When asked how it felt to get one of a very few paid bids in the country, Parks said that the whole team was “very excited, we were very surprised. We had an idea of everyone’s scores [during the Ottawa competition], so we suspected that we’d receive one of the at-large bids. We were ecstatic to realize that we won the paid bid, that was never in any of our wildest dreams.”
That moment at the competition was also a highlight for Layla Pineo. “When we found out that we won the paid bid for Summit, it really took everyone by surprise. It felt amazing knowing that all the hard work we put in paid off,” she recalls. Though she wasn’t at the Ottawa competition, Morgann Bolduc was one of the additions to the team roster for Summit, bringing the 17-person team from Ottawa up to a 22-person team for Florida. She is also very happy for the team, and for the chance to compete on the world stage. “I’m super excited to be part of this team and I can’t wait to go!” she beams.