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Lugoff’s Spirit Athletics heads to D2 Summit

Posted: May 4, 2017 5:29 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Spirit Athletics cheerleaders (from left) Kayleigh Lund, Mary Young and Kaydynce Crout are lifted by their teammates during a recent practice at the gym on DeWitt Drive in Lugoff. All five of Spirit Athletics eligible competition cheer teams will leave next Thursday for Orlando, Fla., to compete for national championships in their respective categories at the D2 Summit at Disney World.

Five teams from one Kershaw County gym are heading to Florida next Thursday to participate in the D2 Summit, an invitation-only national cheer competition held at Disney World in Orlando, May 12-14.

The Cheer Invasion All-Stars, or CIA, teams of Spirit Athletics on DeWitt Drive in Lugoff are known as the Young Guns, SWAT Team, Bomb Squad, Special Forces and Black Ops. Coached by Meredith Johnson, Wyatt Ogle, Stephanie Roof and Jennifer Brazell, the teams will be competing in their respective categories against hundreds of other teams from across the country and around the world.

Spirit Athletics is the only Kershaw County gym sending teams to the D2 Summit, according to Brazell.

Sixty-two girls -- and one boy, Chance Williams -- will be going to D2 along with their coaches, families and other supporters.

“At least 150 people are going,” Brazell, who co-founded Spirit Athletics with Roof, said on a Thursday afternoon in April. “We actually have seven teams, but only five were eligible for the Summit due to their age and skill level.”

The two youngest teams are known as The Minions and The Secret Agents.

While this is not the first time any off the CIA teams from Spirit Athletics have gone to D2, this is the first time all five of its eligible teams have received bids to go to the Summit.

“It’s the ‘Super Bowl’ of competitive cheering … with elite-level jumping, stunting, tumbling and dance. Only 10 percent of the nations’ competitive teams get bids,” Brazell said.

A year ago, three CIA teams went to the D2 Summit. One of those teams, Bomb Squad, placed second in its category.

“It was an honor, but they were so, so close to winning first,” Brazell said. “I remember sitting after ours performed and watching the other teams. They were amazing! We were humbled to bring kids from Camden and Lugoff. And they get a red carpet treatment with photo ops.”

Spirit Athletics boasts a total of 90 competitive cheerleaders. There are also 25 competitive gymnast/tumblers, who train at a separate facility elsewhere in Lugoff under the guidance of Coach Brittney Parker.

Visitors to the main facility on DeWitt Drive will immediately notice the dozens, if not hundreds, of trophies lining the shelves of a kitchenette and filling a nearby room that leads to the gym floor. Brazell said during the current season alone, the gym has won six national titles and multiple top three finishes. This is Spirit Athletics’ fifth season -- hence the gym’s hashtag on Facebook of #5for5inSeason5 as a way of celebrating all five competition teams heading off to Orlando.

Almost exactly five years ago, Roof -- a former College of Charleston cheerleader -- was working for another gym in the county. One of Brazell’s daughters was a member of that gym. There were things both wanted to do in terms of competition cheering, so they left the other gym and started Spirit Athletics.

“The response was huge,” Brazell said. “We wanted 20 students to join and we got 50.”

Spirit Athletics added in competitive gymnastics about a year and a half ago, which has also been doing well. According to the gym’s Facebook page, in recent weeks, four of its gymnasts -- Ella Denton, Addison Trimnal, Julia Lee and Addison Komarnicki -- became state champions at an Amateur Athletic Union event in Rock Hill. At the same event, the gym’s Silvers team brought home a third-place trophy, as did its Bronze team.

Back on the cheer side, the Young Guns, Special Forces, Black Ops and SWAT Team all took first place in their respective categories at a recent event, with SWAT getting a paid bid to the U.S. finals. At the same competition, the Bomb Squad placed second; Minions, third; and Secret Agents, fifth.

And now, five of those teams are getting ready to try to sweep the competition in Orlando at the D2 Summit. The Bomb Squad -- the team that came in second a year ago -- was the final CIA team to learn it was heading to Florida this year.

According to a post on the gym’s Facebook page on the morning of April 3, Bomb Squad came in fourth during a national competition in Myrtle Beach the previous weekend. The team had apparently struggled earlier in the competition, but came back on the second day to show what they could do.

That evening, the gym was able to announce that all five teams were going to the D2 Summit.

“The Bomb Squad was the team that got the last bid. They had reworked their routine and went to Myrtle Beach and got the bid,” Brazell said. “It was so special. I will never forget that moment, finding out.”

Brazell and Roof want other kids -- and not just girls -- to get in on the fun of cheering. Spirit Athletics will hold tryouts for its next season on Saturday. Call (803) 713-7331 for times and more information.



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