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Nimitz? Ready? OK!
[January 09, 2013]

Nimitz? Ready? OK!

Jan 09, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Bass-thumping dance music awoke anything living inside the Asbury United Methodist Church fellowship hall early Tuesday morning as 13 Nimitz Junior High cheerleaders danced, were thrown high into the air and did split, after split, after split. The junior high school nationals are three days away.

Even at 7:30 a.m., the girls showed off an enthusiasm likened to ... cheerleaders.

"Your energy is better this morning," said third-year coach Michelle Thomas. "Jumps look better, too." The 14-member squad will be in Dallas come Friday for the 33rd National Cheerleaders Association Senior and Junior High School National Championship.

The team of cheering Nimitz Admirals qualified for the national distinction at camp this summer and since has raised $10,000 to travel to Dallas and compete.

Because of Ector County Independent School District's configuration of junior high schools, they will go up against high school teams in the Junior Varsity/Freshmen division in preliminaries on Saturday with finals on Sunday.

"We just would like to have a clean routine," Thomas said. "This is an opportunity some girls will never have again." The girls are fired up to be on the national stage and a bit nervous. When asked what sets Nimitz cheer apart from other cheer teams, the answer came quickly.

"Stunts," Ashley Grissom and Brianna Hurst answered.

"We're really good at stunts," said Grissom, 14.

"Yeah, it's our strength. It's like what we're known for," said Hurst, 15.

Thomas even shook off her shoes to jump into the routine Tuesday and spot what's called a "flyer" or a petite girl who's thrown into the air by other cheerleaders to perform a stunt.

"Whew! That was fun," Thomas said, a bit sarcastically.

"We love our coaches. They're awesome," Grissom said.

They're not just fun -- Thomas and co-coach Angela Hodge get the job done. They took over the team three years ago and have taken a Nimitz squad to two junior high school national championships.

"We want to give them every opportunity. It's a chance to get out of Odessa and get some experience," Thomas said.

Last year, the squad placed 10th, and while Thomas says it's less about bringing home a trophy, she would love to see the girls hoist a trophy into the air Sunday.

"They don't stop until they get it right," she said. "They hold themselves to a higher standard than maybe (the coaches) do sometimes." As the girls rehearsed their routine over and over again, Thomas yelled out things like: "Don't worry about your hair! Don't touch your hair! Your arms are too high! Don't move!" And the word or phrase yelled most often "Smile!" "Sell them with your smiles," Thomas said.

Check this weekend for updates on how the Nimitz cheerleaders fare at the NCA competition.

--Contact Lindsay Weaver on twitter at @OAschools, on Facebook at OA Lindsay Weaver or call 432-333-7781.

___ (c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) Visit the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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