Starting with a bang | CraigDailyPress.com

Starting with a bang

Thunder cheer team sweeps through regionals

John Vandelinder

Four years and counting.

Having never lost in Grand Junction while under the watchful eye of coach Jannie Brenner, the Moffat County Thunder all-star cheer team returned to its stomping grounds last week to compete in the regional tournament.

Brenner’s team has changed – the Thunder fielded three teams this year, an all-star cheer first – but the results were the same.

All three teams placed first, as the Thunder swept the tournament for the fourth consecutive year.

“We always win in Grand Junction,” Brenner said. “I expected us to go in there and win, so I guess you could say we are up to par.”

And then some.

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The Thunder traveled with a senior team, a junior team and an elementary stunt group.

The stunt group – comprised of five girls in the sixth grade and younger – completed several difficult stunts in the required one minute to run away with the first-place trophy.

“It’s really tough to do as many stunts as you can in that amount of time,” Brenner said. “They went at it hard and landed everything. What more could you ask for?”

The senior team – entering the competition with its most difficult routine to date – encountered a slip-up during its performance, but because of the degree of difficulty, few points were lost.

“We scored really high, even though we had that little mistake,” Brenner said. “It didn’t matter because we performed a routine that is harder than it’s ever been.”

The junior team followed in the seniors’ footsteps, breaking out a routine that blew away the competition.

“They hit all their stunts solidly, and their sequence was right-on perfect,” Brenner said. “It’s the first time we’ve had a junior team, and they were awesome out there.”

With the three first-place finishes, each team earned a bid to the national tournament beginning the first week of April in Las Vegas.

An expected result considering the team’s previous regional success.

“We came in here with the idea that we were going to win and get those bids,” Brenner said. “That’s always been our goal, and we achieved it.”

The team also picked up some valuable experience, Brenner said, which should help further along in the season.

“We had nine people on this team that hadn’t competed in front of a big crowd – with all the noise – like that before,” she said. “They kept it together and got all of their pre-season jitters out. We had a lot of kids with butterflies in their stomachs.”

Karlee Brown was one of them.

Competing for the first time, Brown – a junior team member – said she’s glad it’s over.

“I was really nervous because there were a lot of people,” she said. “I get scared that I’m going to mess up my dance.”

“But she didn’t this time,” Brenner chimed in. “The judges absolutely loved her.”

National bid secured, the team now works on adding more difficulty to an already difficult routine.

And they’ll soon get a chance to show it off.

The team competes Jan. 24 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“It will be a bigger venue with way more teams,” Brenner said. “We’ll work on fixing what needs to be fixed and being perfect.”

As far as regionals go, they are.

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793 or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com