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Where cheerleading is more than a sport

Lakeridge duo ready to flip, flop and fly at Disney World


CLIFF NEWELL - Jordan Ryals and Taylor Buck are hoping to hit a new peak of excellence when their Oregon Dream Team competes in Orlando on April 25.You might call Taylor Buck and Jordan Ryals cheerleaders, but they are really athletes.

Buck and Ryals, both students at Lakeridge High School, are ready to join their teammates on the Beaverton-based Oregon Dream Team for a startling outburst of athleticism at the United States All Star Federation Cheerleading Worlds on April 25 at Disney World in Orlando, FL.

The 32-member Oregon Dream Team is really good. Good enough to dream big.

“We’ll be going against 30 teams in our division,” said, Buck, 15, a Lakeridge sophomore. “We’ve got a lot of really talented athletes. Our goal is to make the top 10. No Team Oregon team has ever done it.”

Cheerleading is a revered American pastime, especially popular in high school and college, in which the cheerleaders offer a refreshing and feel-good side show to the game action. Of course, some jumps and tumbling are involved. But the main qualification is: be cute.

Ryals, Buck and their teammates have to be so much more than that. Oh, they are cute, pretty and handsome all right. But that doesn’t help them on stage against other ambitious cheerleading teams. Instead in three minutes of stunning intensity they must leap, jump, tumble, lift each other way, way up, then toss each other high, and never lose their balance. When they are finished everyone cheers for them.

“We don’t actually cheer,” Buck said. “It’s more acrobatics and tumbling. Sometimes stunting can be dangerous. It’s not about how your hair looks. It’s about being an athlete.”

The Lakeridge kids and their teammates reached the world stage of cheerleading with their scintillating performance on March 7-8 at the Aloha International Spirit Championships in Sacramento. They did so well they received a grant of $10,000 and a bid to compete at Disney World.

“That weekend we were on our game,” said Ryals, a 16-year-old junior at Lakeridge.

Since this is only their first year on the Oregon Dream Team, Buck and Ryals feel pretty good about their accomplishments. Both are athletic, strong, ultra-coordinated and super fit, and obviously could compete in many sports. But competitive cheerleading suits them best.

You might expect Ryals to be hooping it up for the Pacer basketball team. But he spent seven years watching his sisters at cheerleading competitions.

“I really liked it,” Ryals said. “Especially tumbling. I took tumbling lessons.”

Buck was actually a traditional cheerleader in her freshman year at Lakeridge. But it wasn’t quite what she wanted, so she turned to the athletic kind of cheerleading a year ago. Buck and Ryals have seen the Oregon Dreamers turn into a world class team.

“We’re a lot better this year,” Ryals said. “We’re very well-conditioned and we have a lot of strength.”

The two cheerleaders give much credit to their head coach Dan Cotton.

“He gives us a new skill every day,” Ryals said.

“He wants us to be successful and also have fun,” Buck said.

The other coach is Cher Fuller. From watching her on the sidelines in the video of the team’s performance in Sacramento it’s obvious where they get their intensity.

Of course, the biggest credit goes to the parents, who provide the money and time for their children to excel. Parents like Donna Buck.

“My husband and I love being involved,” Buck said. “I love seeing my kids busy, healthy and fit.

“We also like that competitive cheerleading is about being a team. You can’t achieve much just thinking about yourself. It’s cool to see kids grow, even though their struggles. They gain mental strength as well as agility.”

Competing at worlds is certainly a big stepping stone. But next year Buck and Ryals might really have something to dream about.

For more about the Oregon Dream Team go to oregondreamteams.com .

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