Last night I had the privilege of observing the year-end championship competition for the Cleveland Schools’ elementary grade’s Military Drill Corps and Hi-Stepper Cheerleading teams in the large gym at John Hay High School. Who even knew there was such an activity in our schools? I didn’t.
These were 6th, 7th and 8th graders: four drill teams and six cheerleading teams from 10 different CMSD schools. It was the first sweltering night of the year and the gym was packed. I estimated at least 800 parents, friends and family turned out to fill the bleachers top to bottom on either side of the gym floor: a noisy, happy, proud crowd.
Two rounds of high energy, precision competition were interspersed with awards for perfect attendance and grade averages at or above 3.0. Representatives of the military were there, in dress uniform, to judge the drill teams. Dance, gymnastics and cheerleading professionals judged the Hi-Steppers. The music was loud, and there was enough wattage in the smiles of kids and parents to light the gym without electricity.
I was particularly impressed with the drill team from Marion Sterling Elementary School, which won first place. Led by a young girl who barked orders like a Master Sergeant, the team marched, saluted, handled wooden rifles and stepped to rhythmic and syncopated commands with straight backs, serious faces and incredible confidence.
The first and second place winners of the cheerleading competition (Forest Hill Parkway and Alexander G. Bell respectively) created a really hard choice for the judges. I couldn’t pick my favorite. I’m convinced the girls all had springs in their shoes and rubber bands for hamstrings. Hi-stepping indeed! The choreography was creative, the complex rhythmic patterns were impressive and the unison high-kick lines brought smiles and cheers from me as well as the audience.
I left the gym after a good two hours of clapping my hands raw and feeling that I would never be able to relax my face from grinning. A very good night.