Hundreds of cheerleaders and their parents in town for the Mid Atlantic Open Championship took over the Greater Richmond Convention Center this weekend.
The competition, which began Saturday with some lower-level contests, finished up late Sunday with the top teams battling for a trip to the world championships in Orlando later this year.
Cheer and Dance Extreme, the organizers, gave the top two teams fully paid bids to the 2015 Cheerleading Worlds. Four other teams got partial bids.
Only senior Level 5 teams get bids to go.
The championship is “kids from everywhere looking to compete for the world title,” said Angela Hundley of Midlothian. “It’s like their Super Bowl.”
Hundley’s 13-year-old daughter, Morgan, is on the Icons — one of three teams competing for Fame All Stars in Chesterfield County.
Parents at the convention Sunday were quick to point out that what their kids are doing is far different from what most people think of when they think of cheerleading.
Pam Jones, the team mom for the Icons, said those in competitive cheerleading are athletes performing high-energy routines made up of gymnastics, jumps, stunts and dance.
Her 16-year-old daughter, Taylor, has been in competitive cheerleading since she was 7.
The competitors practice about five hours a week with their teams as well as train in the gym most of the year.
Traditional school cheerleading is “clapping and ... yelling. Just literally cheering,” said Hundley. “It’s extremely different.”