Heavy snow closed all three mountain passes and prevented some teams from Eastern Washington from attending, but the competition was red hot on an otherwise rainy day on Whidbey Island at Saturday’s Spiritfest hosted by the Oak Harbor High School cheerleading team.

Wildcat coach Pam Headridge said 15 schools and 13 clubs had registered to perform at Spiritfest and although the weather kept some of the teams at home, hundreds of contestants in brightly-colored uniforms were present to wow the fans packed into the Oak Harbor gymnasium.

The teams were initially divided into schools and clubs, and then subdivided by junior varsity, middle school and junior high; small, medium, large and super large; small co-ed and large co-ed in the school division; and youth small, mini small and tiny small; junior rec, junior small and junior large; senior small, senior large and senior rec in the club division.

In addition to team competition, individuals, partners and stunt teams strutted their stuff for the judges.

The competitors ranged in age from six through high school and all of them had one thing on their minds — we’re going to win!

In the small co-ed division, the host Oak Harbor Wildcats turned in a near flawless performance and scored 239.50 points, the largest total of the day, to win the first-place trophy in their division.

The 2008 Spiritfest was the third straight victory of the season for the defending state champions. The Wildcats’ next stop will be at the USA National Championships in Anaheim, Calif., March 5 through March 9.

Meadowdale High School won the medium division, Bothell was the super large division winner and King’s won the large co-ed trophy.

Lindsey Vessels from Oak Harbor scored 121 points to win the individual title.

The local club teams from Liberty Cheer finished third in the youth small and senior small divisions.

Win or lose, there was a lot of camaraderie and miles of smiles among the competitors and their parents all day long.

The cheers may have changed and the stunts have evolved to a level of intricacy and difficulty never before imagined, but the basic idea of cheerleading is the same as ever.

Gone is Bob Hope’s favorite, “He is peaches he is cream, he’s the captain of the team!” as well as “Rah, rah sis boom bah!”

But one thing will never change — cheerleaders are special kinds of athletes who have a lot of fun performing.

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