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Cheerleading team getting its kicks nationally

| Sunday, May 18, 2008

With a current ranking of fourth in the world, the FCA Gems' Diamond cheerleading team -- comprised of girls ages 11 to 18 -- is making a major impact in the sport.

"We don't settle for being just good enough to win," said Jennifer Walton, the Diamond assistant head coach. "A couple of years ago, these teams were beating us. Now, we're beating them."

The Diamond team earned its fourth-place showing at the World Cheerleading Competition April 26-27 at the Disney Studios in Orlando. (The event will be televised today at 1 p.m. and again Monday at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.)

But a couple of years ago, Flo's Gymnastics -- home of the Diamond team -- was training in a rented space at the old Highlands Mall. Now the team is using a facility in Sarver along Ekastown Road.

Along with moving its home base, the Diamond team also moved steadily up the rankings -- from 13th in the world a few years ago to ninth last year.

"We take them to the biggest competitions nationally and in the world," Walton said. "We have them get beat so that they get better."

The Diamond won a national tournament in Atlanta earlier this year and earned $25,000. The winnings paid for the team's airfare, hotel rooms and registration fee at the world competition in Orlando, Fla.

"We definitely didn't go there on vacation," Walton said of the trip to Orlando. "They were really about the competition the whole time."

Although some teams would be happy with a fourth-place trophy, the Diamond team believes that it could win it all next year.

"We're working for that first place," Walton said. "(Fourth place) isn't that important."

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