Thousands in G.I. for State Cheer and Dance Championship

By  | 

More than 1,600 dancers and cheerleaders packed the Heartland Events Center Saturday for their state championship.

"They're behind the scenes cheering for people most of the year, now it's the opportunity for people to cheer them on," said Darin Boysen, executive director of the Nebraska Coaches Association, which hosts the championships.

The high-energy competition pits about 160 high school teams against each other in various categories, with a new performance every three minutes.

"There are anywhere from three to five judges critiquing them. They're looking for, one of the biggest things is athleticism, how they've really amped up this as a sport," Boysen said.

And competitors said that the championship gives them a chance to show that dance and cheerleading are as much sports as basketball or softball.

"It is because we put in the time and effort just as much as a sport does," said Lexie Berghorst, a dancer from Broken Bow High School.

And the Grand Island Visitors Bureau said that just like with other sporting events, the State Cheer and Dance Championship brings tremendous economic activity to the city.

"We have over 1,600 competitors and when you bring in all their families and fans that's over 5,000 people bringing over half a million dollars of impact on our community," said Brad Mellema, executive director of the Visitors Bureau.

The Visitors Bureau said that this economic impact is here to stay and grow.

"In order to accommodate particular sports or events, a lot of times we want to have the ability to do that. If we do simple things like get mats, and I know Fonner Park has invested in those things, and the result is you can build relationships with these kind of sporting events and get them to come back year after year, which really has a major impact on our city as well," explained Mellema.