This is the first time in the school’s history that the cheer team has qualified to compete at the World School Cheerleading Championship. Team coach Maddalena Bitondo said the team’s faith and hard work have played a significant role in the team’s success. Photo courtesy of Maddalena Bitondo

Toronto high school team cheers for Canada on world stage

By  Elizabeth Chelmecki, Youth Speak News
  • October 28, 2016

The joy of faith, while usually not associated with sports, can be seen in the journey of the Father John Redmond High School Redhawks cheerleading team.

The Redhawks squad will represent Canada at the International Cheer Union’s World School Cheerleading Championship in February in Orlando, Fla.

The news comes after wins at both the Ontario Cheerleading Federation Provincial competition in March and the Ontario Cheerleading Federation National competition in April.

The team placed first in their division at both events and were grand champions at the national competition, compiling the highest score not only in their competing division, but the whole competition, including against All-Star teams.

The team is excited to be able to show the cheerleading world what they are able to do as a group.

“Hard work, dedication, teamwork, and fantastic coaching is the foundation of the Redhawks journey to the world championships,” said Lin Kearney, a student on the team. “Stunting, flying, tumbling and trusting the team to be there for each other is what makes the sport exciting and fun.”

The team frequently participates in competitions and community events, like the Lakeshore Christmas Parade. Although the team has won two provincial and national championships recently, this is the first time the team has qualified for the world championship.

The team has 19 members and 15 will be competing at the worlds.

The team’s success didn’t come without dedication. The team meets at 6:30 a.m. twice weekly for practice and have been fundraising over $4,000 for the trip to Orlando.

Preparing for the worlds is a daunting task, but Kearney said the team is up for the challenge.

“Trust in our team, training and coaching combine to create a well-oiled machine, that under the stress of competition, still operates smoothly,” said Kearney. “Everyone has to be precisely where they need to be and do what they are asked to do for the routine to work.”

Maddalena Bitondo, a teacher at Father John Redmond and one of the team coaches, believes faith also has a significant role in the team’s success.

“I think that faith has had a huge impact on the team and has helped the girls to get to worlds,” said Bitondo. “A part of having faith is being able to believe in yourself and your team.”

Working together during practices and routines has allowed the team to create a foundation of togetherness and trust, he said.

“One of the most powerful things I witnessed as a coach at a previous competition was the team stopping before a routine to pray,” said Bitondo. “I see the answered prayer in the way our team is bonded as a family in Christ and in the community. The team has the physical strength and skills to perform, but they are successful because they are a family on and off the mat.”

To prepare for the world championships, the team will be fundraising by hosting cheer clinics.

(Chelmecki, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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