Cheerlebrities — teen cheerleaders with hundreds of thousands of fans on Instagram — are known on social media for their sky-high blonde ponytails and spray-tanned abs. But these girls are spending way more hours in the gym these days than they are taking selfies, all in preparation for World Championships this weekend in Orlando, Florida.
still pushing— Carly Manning (@carlygonewild) April 24, 2014
For flyer Ashley Wilson, a 15-year-old who commands more than 326,000 Instagram followers, Worlds are the Olympics. She's been working on her team's two-and-a-half minute competition routine since last summer. "We practice every single day the last week [before] Worlds," Wilson tells The Wire. "Sometimes we will practice as much as six to eight hours a day." On top of that, Wilson commutes three hours to her gym, Cheer Athletics, in Plano, Texas. (It's a good gym.) Cheer Twitter has been abuzz this week with encouragements to "push" (work hard) in order to "hit" (perform a perfect routine) this weekend.
homework during worlds week is such an inconvenience— Jamie Andries (@CAjamieandries) April 24, 2014
Only the highest level teams get "bids" to compete at Worlds, and yes, there are some international teams. Wilson's co-ed team, the Cheer Athletics Cheetahs, is one of the best in its division. They came second at Worlds last year, and after coming second this year at NCA Nationals, they're gunning for a championship ring. "Our biggest competitors are Top Gun Large Coed and Cheer Extreme Coed Elite," Wilson explains. Top Gun took gold last year.
Instagram's popular page this weekend will likely be full of photos and videos of the two-day competition, and the entire thing will air on ESPN after it's over. If you want to watch like a cheerleader, realize this now: it's not high-school, sideline pom-pom routines. "All-star cheerleading is so much different than school cheerleading that most people know about," Wilson explains. "The routine is filled with quickly executed elite stunts, one-man partner stunts, pyramids, jumps, standing tumbling, running tumbling and a high-energy dance to music." There are no actual cheers, because there's no football team. The crowd cheers for the cheerleaders.