Young team brings gold back to Western

Charbonneau wins fourth tumbling competition in as many years

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western cheerleading team

Courtesy of Western Mustangs

UP, UP AND AWAY WITH THE GOLD. The Western cheerleading team showed why they are considered the gold standard in Canada with a win at nationals Nov. 28. Aaron Charbonneau also won the tumbling competition for the Mustangs.

The Western cheerleading team attended this year’s national championship in Brampton in late November with a bitter taste in its mouth.

Last year, the Queen’s Gaels took the gold medal at nationals, ending Western’s streak of 22 championships in as many years.

“It was a good win [this year] for many reasons,” head coach David-Lee Tracey said. “It gets that awful year of being ‘the second place team’ off of our backs.”

Not only did the team place first, but Tracey bluntly stated that the Mustangs were miles ahead of the competition.

“No one was close,” he said.

“I don’t count [our wins] ... it is more important that this team has one, which will be the start of the next streak.”

The team’s success year after year is made even more surprising given the turnover that it experiences each season. This year’s medal was won with a team comprised of a “boatload” of rookies, according to Tracey.

“You build champions from the freshman up, not from the seniors down,” he said. “Our rookies stepped up and brought the hardware back home where it lived for almost a quarter of a century.

“After losing last year, I put a bigger push on recruiting. Despite the youth of the team, I will push just as hard or harder when recruiting for the upcoming season.”

Alex Duke, a product of last year’s recruitment process, said competing with the Mustangs for her first time was a great experience.

“This year is my first year on the team. I am a recruit from Michigan so it was awesome,” she said. “Queen’s came out strong ... [but] we did what we had to do and ran it like any other competition even though it meant more.”

Queen’s and the Waterloo Warriors have consistently been in direct competition with Western for the gold in the past five years.

“We typically get to see them during the football season to get a peak at who they have and what they are up to,” Tracey said. “However, Waterloo did not travel to their game at Western this year and similarly we didn’t make the trek to Queen’s ... so we were a bit blind.”

Despite not getting a preview of the competition, Western is used to the stress surrounding the national stage and thrives when other schools often crack.

“Since Western has always been the top team in the top division, we prepare athletes well for the noise, the hundreds of flashes and the wall of video cameras that encircle the competition floor,” Tracey said. “Some teams crack with the pressure; our squad drinks it up.”

Team leader Aaron Charbonneau did not let the crowd distract him as he took the title of best tumbler at the competition. Tracey said that Charbonneau deserves any accolades he receives.

“I said it four years ago when he started with us " he is the best tumbler and cheerleader ever in Canada,” he said. “He owns the arena when he steps on the floor.

“His talent is not just his ability to flip and spin; he is also a team leader, a great recruiter and a great mentor to younger kids.”

This year marks Charbonneau’s fourth-straight victory in the competition and also his last national tumbling competition as a Mustang.

“This is my last year and everyone knew that I was done this year, so I was expected to win again,” he said. “From what I can tell, most people said that it was the best performance I have ever done, so I was pretty excited about it.”

With old thoughts of silver forgotten, the team will continue to compete into late February this season against some of the best teams south of the border. In the past, Western has dominated teams in the United States, and this year will be no different, according to Tracey.

“We are quietly building an unbeaten streak in the U.S. as well,” he said.

Tracey did not mince words when he discussed the fate of the competition.

“Michigan State will curl up and die when we are done with them.”

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