ELMHURST – Three weeks ago, Annalise Haarstad was thrilled to make an all-star cheer team.
Now, she’s looking forward to a national competition and an appearance on the movie screen.
“It’s definitely exciting,” the York High School junior said.
Haarstad will compete with the ICE All-Stars Lady Lightning team this weekend at the Nfinity Champions League two-day competition in Atlanta, Ga. The competition brings 30 of the top all-star teams in the country together to compete in a unique event that will be filmed.
The 30 teams include all three size categories as well as all-women and co-ed teams. The event will be filmed and screened across the country four days later. Area residents can look for Haarstad in the documentary Thursday at AMC Yorktown 17.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” Haarstad said.
A member of York’s varsity cheer team, Haarstad chose to cheer for her high school team instead of an all-star team, which is competition focused and doesn’t perform at sports games. The two seasons interfere, but when one of the Lady Lightning cheerleaders got injured, Haarstad’s assistant coach recommended her to fill in.
“It’s awesome to be a part of because these girls are so good,” Haarstad said.
The Lady Lightning is a small, senior-level five cheer team that trains at ICE in Aurora. The group finished third at the 2013 Cheerleading Worlds.
The daughter of two competitive gymnasts, Haarstad grew up tumbling, but said most people don’t realize the strength cheerleading demands.
“Some of these girls are probably stronger than some guys at my school,” she said.
In addition to her three-hour practices four days a week, Haarstad said her father still helps her with her tumbling, and she puts in extra hours weight lifting in the gym.
“When people think of cheerleading, they think of girls standing on the sideline,” Haarstad said.
That won’t be the case this weekend. Instead, Haarstad and the Lady Lightning will be center stage tumbling, cheering and hoisting each other into the air.
“It’s hard for people to understand that what we do is actually very athletic,” Haarstad said.
Aside from the physical challenges, Haarstad said she’s also learned the value of teamwork through cheerleading.
“I have to do my part and have to do it good for the rest of the team to look good,” she said.
When she isn’t practicing or improving her own skills, Haarstad helps coach the Elmhurst Eagles eighth-grade cheer team. She enjoys the sport but also values getting to know the eighth-grade girls who may join cheerleading at York. Haarstad plays AYSO soccer in the fall and spring.
Haarstad will compete with Lady Lightning from Friday through Sunday at the Georgia International Convention Center.
“Right now I’m just mainly focusing on competing and doing the best I can,” Haarstad said.