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Vancouver IceOut: #1 Rank in Semis at Worlds - Oh What a Feeling!

Vancouver IceOut: #1 Rank in Semis at Worlds - Oh What a Feeling!
Photo: Vancouver All Stars
When looking at the top three teams in each division at Worlds, you can't help but notice the same names year after year. Those gyms set the bar high for all other teams, but it sure is exciting to see unexpected, lesser-known teams enter the upper echelon of all-star cheerleading. This year, Vancouver All Stars (VAS) was one of those teams.

VAS competed in the International Open Coed Level 6 Division against big-name teams like California All Stars Reckless and GymTyme Jade. To their surprise, Vancouver was ranked first on day one! Ultimately, they respectably finished in third place. The experience not only gave them confidence for the future, but also teams who don't necessarily have a household name in cheerleading.

VAS started in 2000 with just one team. Their founder, Liz Gigante Ulrich, was a high school teacher and University of Western Ontario cheer alumnus who wanted to kickstart opportunities for competitive cheerleading on Canada's west coast.

Coaching Staff:
The bronze-medal team, Ice Out, was coached by a trio of women. One of their coaches, Chelsey Moore (in blue on the right), gave us some insight into their program. Not only is Chelsey a VAS alumnus, but she has been coaching at the gym since 2005.

Ice Out's second coach, Rachel Scott (in black on the left), has been with VAS since 2005 and was also a VAS athlete.

Jeanette Ruddick (in the middle) has been coaching the Vancouver teams since the inception of the program and even coached Chelsey and Rachel when they were athletes.

Q&A with Coach Chelsey Moore
Describe this IceOut team:
This team is an amalgamation of our all-girl 6, Blackout, and our co-ed 5, Black Ice, which is where IceOut came from (Black Ice + Black Out = IceOut). The season started with a lot of firsts for everyone. We had some girls who had never been on a coed team, some flyers who'd never stunted on an all-girl group, and some Black Ice alumni who'd never done a Level 6 skill. There was a LOT of learning for everyone involved. We had a constantly changing roster, but with everyone who came and went, our team just continued to get stronger.

How many times has VAS been to Worlds and what were your results in the past?
This was year 10 at Worlds for VAS. The best result our program had was in 2013, when our IO5 team, Ice Queens, came home with the silver. 2015 was the first year we took a Level 6 team to Worlds (IO6 Blackout), but they also fell short of making finals.

What did this team do this year that you think was a game-changer?
At our last competition before Worlds, we had a team talk. Everyone shared something they were struggling with that they were going to let go of to be able to move forward in a positive way. That day was a turning point--they let go of every piece of baggage they'd been carrying, any fears, doubts, concerns, conflicts, they found a way to get past all of it.
They saw in that moment that every single person was still 100 percent invested in finishing our season the strongest way possible. Our goal all season was to make finals and to show the world that Vancouver All-Stars is a strong program beyond IO5, and we all knew we had the routine to do it.

Tell us about Day 1 at Worlds when you ended up ranked in first place?

Day one was exciting. For a handful of our athletes, this was their first Worlds. We arrived to ESPN nice and early, went to the ball diamond and let everyone take pictures and enjoy the atmosphere. From there, we started our pre-competition routine, which involves visualization, marking, team warm up and stretch, and then a bit of down time to compose themselves before going into warm up.

The athletes were calm and confident. The coaches knew they were in a good place, and our only job at that point was to help them keep that mindset. When it was time, we all walked to Jostens to check in for warm up. We were prepared--we practiced our 12-minute warm-up repeatedly at home, and it was always smooth and easy.

Of course--because nothing can be that easy--at minute 10 of 12, coaches were approached by a USASF official to inform us they had two legality concerns. Two minutes before we were supposed to take the floor, we were making changes. Back to pyramid... things HAVE to change. With 90 seconds left, one coach on one side of the floor was changing positions of team members; one coach on the other side was doing the same; and a third coach was trying to reassure athletes it was going to be fine.
We just needed one last mark-through of the pyramid to make sure everyone knew where to go. We set it up, then the buzzer went off--we were out of time. We got everyone off the floor and out of the tent, then continued to make changes as we walked to Jostens.

The athletes circled up and started to rap (no, I'm not joking) a little Eminem "Lose Yourself" to calm the nerves, and then they were ready. We headed inside Jostens and lined up. The coaches and I said a few quick words, gave some hugs and high fives, and we left to watch.

They took the floor so confidently, and the coaches and I were barely breathing as we waited for the music to start. They did everything we wanted them to do with a few issues here and there, but still zero deductions.

Coming off the floor, they were mostly happy. There were concerns about the errors, but we reassured them. None of us knew what was going to happen at that point.

From there, we rushed over to the tent to support our sister team, Ice Queens. After that, we went back to Jostens for finalist announcements. Rumors started making their way to us that our team was at the top of the division. We were hopeful, but couldn't believe it.

Finally, the announcements started in reverse order. We waited to hear our name, and for a moment we wondered if we had fallen short of finals. They announce GymTyme Jade, Cali Reckless…how is this possible? Finally, the last team announced, meaning the first-place team in the division: Vancouver All-Stars IceOut! Our team erupted--not only had we accomplished our goal, we blew it out of the water.
We gave the team some free time in the afternoon and told them we were practicing on the field at 6PM, since there was work to be done.

After Day 1, what was your plan going into finals? How did you handle that pressure of the top-spot ranking?

After learning our standing, the coaches reviewed score sheets and determined the areas where we had control to improve. We already ran a deduction-free routine, so we needed to be creative. We ended up having a four-hour practice on the field that night. They learned a brand-new dance, we added transitions between a couple sections, changed and added motions, and cleaned the elements we thought were lackluster.

To be continued on Wednesday…

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