With this cheerleader's energy level, she could never just watch


FINKSBURG -- Aubrey Lynn Contrino might be on the sidelines, but she's far from being a passive spectator.

Before and during each game, the 15-year-old dynamo twirls on dancing feet, jumps through the air and belts out cheers, infecting the crowd with her enthusiasm.

During a cheerleading workshop at Western Maryland College last week, the National Cheerleaders Association recognized her energetic style and offered her a place on its All-American Team.

"All by myself, I had to get a crowd of 400 people yelling and chanting with me," she said. "Even though I had a cold, I did it. I had them out of their seats."

Competition for a spot on the team included some 400 cheerleaders from Maryland and surrounding states. Judges selected winners on the basis of technique, leadership and ability.

Kevin Jones, director of the Youth Metro Program for the National Cheerleaders Association, said the organization offers about 575 workshops throughout the country each summer.

"We train about 100,000 kids, and only about five percent become All-Americans," he said from the association's center in Dallas. "The exact number chosen isn't set. It all depends on performance.

All-American membership entitles Aubrey to perform with the team in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York, the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii and the St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin, Ireland.

"We can choose whichever event we want, but I would like to do all three," said Aubrey, who begins her sophomore year at Westminster High School next month. "That is, if I can raise the travel money."

Susan Contrino said she also would like her daughter to attend all the events. She is hoping Aubrey gets to Ireland, "especially since I am Irish."

Mr. Jones also choreographs the three team events. About 500 cheerleaders typically perform in the Thanksgiving parade; nearly 400 make the trip to Hawaii and 150 cheer with the Dubliners, he said. The winners practice together for about a week before each performance.

"We get the best of the best," he said. "They are very talented performers, and it's just a matter of polishing the routine with them."

Aubrey, a perky 5-foot-1-inch brunette, practices about three hours a day in the living room of her family's log cabin.

"Some people say all a cheerleader has to do is stand up there and look cute," she said. "There's a lot more to it. We have to be flexible, strong, skilled and spirited."

As a little girl, Aubrey concentrated her energy on gymnastics. About five years ago, she switched sports, after deciding her younger brother's football team needed cheerful encouragement.

"My gymnastics background helped a lot," she said.

Chris Contrino, 13, paid his sister back for all that enthusiastic support with some financial assistance.

"He offered his sister his entire bank account," said Mrs. Contrino. "Considering how careful he is with his money, it was generous."

Mrs. Contrino and her husband, Carl, are planning a letter-writing campaign to ask local businesses and organizations to help their daughter get to the events. Costs range from $1,036 for the New York trip to $1,147 for the Hawaii competition and $1,949 for the Ireland trip, excluding air fare.

"She will be one of about 10 girls, representing the state," said Mr. Contrino. "It's almost like going to the Olympics."

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