MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- They may train in a small Milwaukee suburb, but a group of young athletes has no problem taking on the biggest and the best! The Village of Sussex is home to Heat Athletics -- the first cheerleading gym in Wisconsin to have two teams qualify for the Cheerleading World Championships in Orlando in the same year!
"We've grown in numbers, but also in talent. Looking back to when I was on our teams five or six years ago, we're doing twice as difficult of skills. The kids are so talented and they work so hard. It's a whole lifestyle for them," Heat Athletics General Manager Cassie Eschenbach said.
"These aren't what we used to call cheerleaders doing cheers. These kids are top-notch athletes. A team maybe 10 years ago would work on routines more, maybe some dance moves, and sometimes dance is not a good word because they're a cheer athlete. These kids are athletes and that's what we push," Fitness Director Mike Martz said.
"The way I look at All-Star Cheer is, it's high school cheer on steroids. It's cheerleading. We don't have to deal with the games. What I don't like about high school cheer is that they're tumbling on a hard floor. They don't have mats. They don't have the safety. We're on spring floor," Heat Athletics Co-Owner Sean Mars said.
Around 100 athletes compete for the teams that represent Heat, ranging in age from five to 19. Most of them are girls, and all receive hands-on attention.
"For each Elite Tumbling Coach that's on the floor, we have a member of Heat Athletics helping us to kind of bridge the communications barrier between perfect tumbling and gymnastics and then the tumbling -- the aggressive tumbling that's done in cheerleading to create the safest and most effective formula to teach it," Elite Tumbling Founder Nick Mantz said.
So who is on these teams? People like Roy Spieckerman, a senior-to-be at Hartford High School, who will be in his fifth season at Heat.
"I quit gymnastics and I actually got overweight, and then I joined cheerleading because I liked floor better than all of the other events, so that kind of interested me there. It's a completely different talent from gymnastics to cheerleading. With gymnastics, what I would basically do is, I would do skills and routines that weren't as hard, in my opinion. Cheerleading, it takes two minutes and 30 seconds of cardio while throwing tumbling that you could kill yourself on," Spieckerman said.
Andrea Beck is a senior-to-be at Sussex-Hamilton High School.
"I always like to win and I don't like to do individual stuff. I like working as a team too, and cheerleading is definitely a team sport -- not individual, so I just like that, and the second side just comes out when you're here," Beck said.
In April, the Firestorm girls' team placed 15th out of 60 teams at the World Championships, while the Fury co-ed team came in 19th out of 42 teams. Both of those squads under the Heat Athletics umbrella feel they are carrying the torch for the upper Midwest.
Heat Athletics was founded in 2004, with one team practicing at a Milwaukee-area parochial school. It now has seven All-Star teams competing on the national level, with three more on the international level, and they train in a 10,000 square foot facility.