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Carroll County Times

Sykesville Raiders hold fundraisers to get to national event

For the first time in Raiders cheerleading history, one of the three squads will be participating in a national event. The event, known as The Finale, will be held in Sevierville, Tenn., April 5-6, and is a regional qualifying tournament to determine which teams will make it to the U.S. Finals.

The squad traveling to Tenn., called the Raiders Elite Squad, is normally made up of 24 sixth, seventh and eighth graders but due to scheduling difficulties, only 18 will be traveling to Tennessee. Julie Stewart, coach of the Elite Squad, said she initially joined to help coach her youngest daughter, Sydney, when she first registered at the age of four.

"It was really hard the first few years, going to clinics and studying to make sure the girls were having fun and being safe at the same time," Stewart said.

In order to ensure their spot at the meet in Tennessee, the squad had to first compete in the Mid Maryland Youth Football and Cheerleading league's cheer competition at University of Maryland's Cole Field House Nov. 10. After taking first at the event in their division and skill level, one week later they participated in the Spirit of Fall Classics, sponsored by Cheer and Dance Extreme, also held in College Park. They took first there too.

To prepare for The Finale, Stewart has changed the team's routine to ensure the highest possible scores from the judges.

"After every competition, the judges tell you about which areas of scoring you need to hit harder," she said. "We've kept the music and the basic routine but increased the difficulty by adding stunts and tosses."

Shelly George, the director of the cheerleading program for the Sykesville Raiders, explained that to compensate for lack of practice on the sidelines of games during the winter season, they add two to three practices a week in preparation for the upcoming competitions.

"From the Mid Maryland Youth Football and Cheerleading league's cheer competition until the following May of each year, all the girls do is train to compete," George said.

By winning the two events in November the Elite Squad received a free bid to participate in The Finale.

"The Mid Maryland Youth Football and Cheerleading league includes teams from multiple counties including Montgomery, Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore and Howard," She said. "At The Finale, teams will be coming from states all over the eastern seaboard."

She also said that though the fees to enter the competition have been waived, the cost of hotel accommodations were not.

"Altogether the hotel price will be close to $5,000," George said. "We wanted to take a bus down originally but the quote we got for that was another $6,000 so we decided to drive down separately."

To pay for these expenses, the Sykesville Cheerleaders have been holding fundraisers. They teamed up with Buppert's Farm in October so that 10 percent of sales for a two week period went to the cheerleading squad, in February they held a Bingo event at The American Legion in Sykesville, which raised $3,000, and they have two other fundraising opportunities planned for March.

The first is a live show at Cheers in Eldersburg on March 15 that will feature Billy Lyve, a Liberty High graduate, and his band Ill Luck. Ticket prices are $10 in advance which includes a free rail drink or $5 at the door. The second will be a sock hop at the Freedom Optimist Hall March 21. Admission price is $8 and any concession sales go to the fund as well. Lyve will also be the DJ for this event. To purchase tickets contact George at smgajg@live.com.

Stephanie Hunley, a mother of one of the cheerleaders, has been helping to organize these upcoming fundraisers.

"Billy has been so great helping us plan these events," she said. "Without him I doubt either of these events would be possible."

George's goal is to raise enough money to pay for the final $2,000 for the hotel accommodations. Any excess will go toward the purchase of new uniforms for the girls.

"We have been blessed to have such great support from the community," she said. "Any form of donation is welcome."

George also explained that many of the girls have been practicing together for years in preparation for this opportunity.

"Our squads cheer at games and support our football teams, but when you get down to the core of why our girls are her, it's these competitions," she said.

George has also noticed that though the girls drive and dedication have always been strong, there is something special about the squads this year.

"There's a different cohesiveness in the squads than there was before and that makes a big difference in morale," George said. "The energy is definitely back."


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