WAIMEA — Two birthdays and seven cheer squads celebrated at the Clem Gomes Gym, Sunday.
A spiritster from the Kapa’a as well as Lihu’e squads both had birthdays that were second fiddle to the anticipation of who would earn the rights to compete at the National Pop Warner Cheer competition in Florida later this year.
When the dust and noise settled in two capacity crowds at the Clem Gomes Gym, a total of seven Kaua’i teams emerged Florida-bound.
The Kekaha, Lihu’e, and Hanapepe associations each fielded two national qualifying squads with the Kapa’a Eagles’ PeeWee squad qualifying in the PeeWee Intermediate Small division.
The Kekaha Panthers JPW earned the rights in the Intermediate Large division while the Chargers were tops in the Novice Small category.
For Sharmaine Manuel, coach of the Chargers, the win was special as her daughter, a product of the Pop Warner cheer program, is one of the coaches for the JPW squad that will now seek means of getting to Florida.
The Lihu’e Patriots, toiling relentlessly at practices at Isenberg Field, saw the fruits of their labor as the JPW squad earned a Novice berth while their PeeWee squad qualified in the Novice Small category.
The Hanapepe Colts earned berths in the JPW Novice Large group as well as capturing the rights in the Midget Intermediate Small division.
Yvonne Hosaka, Wescon Regional Cheer Coordinator for the Pop Warner Association, explained that several categories opened up this year which enabled more of the squads to earn eligibility rights to the prestigious Florida competition.
However, Kaua’i is still lacking an island cheer coordinator, and Hosaka said acting island cheer coordinator Jane Garma did an excellent job of getting the Kaua’i competition organized and run.
Garma, who on Saturday, had a handful of tickets remaining, said for all practical purposes, the gym was sold out for the two phases of competition.
Due to the large number of participants, the competition had to be broken down into two phases, the first encompassing the Kaua’i Pop Warner Association’s Junior Pee Wee and Pee Wee squads with the afternoon competition taking in the Midget squads.
Spectators who wanted to take in both competitions had to purchase separate tickets because the Clem Gomes Gym was cleared out between the two phases.
The annual cheer competition always generates a high level of excitement among the participants. Girls dress up in special additions to their uniforms, and makeup and hair are definitely items that do not get passed over.
Members of the Lihu’e Patriots Midget squad wore a black long-sleeved turtleneck below their uniform with each girl donning a ribbon decorated fall, the coach noting, “We had the late game last night, so there wasn’t too much we could do.”
Additionally, a lot of the squads were in Waimea before the sun rose, Sunday, the Koloa association taking over the Boys & Girls Club Waimea Clubhouse, the Kekaha Association taking in the Waimea Neighborhood Center, and other associations setting up encampments in and around the Waimea High School athletic field.
“I came before 6, and there already were a lot of people here,” a Kapa’a parent said.
“The Midget girls all had to be ready with the JPW and Pee-Wee girls,” Sharmaine Manuel said. “Once the competition goes on, there’s no time to get ready, so they all get ready at the same time. These girls are going to be tired after this.”
As the crowd trickled out of the gym, Hosaka started the task of collating and organizing the paperwork, noting, “Now, I gotta get ready to put together the regional competition.”
- Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and email@example.com