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The Newberg-based program takes home more trophies at state competition this season

SUMBITTED PHOTO - The Newberg Youth Cheer junior high team was the grand champion at state, scoring more points than any team in any classification.

While the Newberg High School cheer team finished second in state and won a national title in California, a handful of younger cheerleaders were writing their own history at the elementary and middle school levels.

Newberg Youth Cheer is a program for kids age 3 through eighth grade. In each of the past three years, the program's elementary school team has won a state championship. This season, its middle school program did, too – and that group had a chance to go to Anaheim, Calif., for the national championships.

Coach Corrinda Craig jump-started the program in 2011 after she and friend Kristen Robinson purchased it from a previous owner. The sport has changed dramatically over nearly eight years and Newberg Youth Cheer has grown along with the rest of the state's competitive teams.

"At the time, the program was a small class that the previous owner offered," Craig said. "We decided we wanted to take it to a different level, so we rented a small space and started a gym that provided cheerleading year-round."

The success of the Newberg High School program under coach Lisa Berg has directly mirrored the youth program's growth and success under Craig and Robinson. Many of the kids who join the program know nothing about cheerleading when they come in, Craig said, but they eventually fall in love with the sport and become passionate about it.

Craig comes from a high school cheer background and has been coaching on and off since 2008. She said the support system in place in the community allows the program to be successful on the mat and leave a lasting impact off it.

"The community has been amazing to us," she said. "When we were preparing to go to nationals, the community gave back to us with fundraisers and sponsorships that really made the difference. We couldn't be more grateful."

Some girls in the junior high program started with Newberg Youth Cheer when they were 3 years old. Craig said watching the social and athletic development of the cheerleaders as they grow up is "something special."

Having a successful high school program to look up to serves as a point of inspiration for youth cheerleaders. Like other youth sports, Newberg Youth Cheer is a training ground for future high school athletes that gives the high school program an opportunity to watch future generations compete and for it to scout talent.

"Every little girl wants to be the high school cheerleader," Craig said. "Because the Newberg High School program is so big, it provides the opportunity to reach for those goals. We're trying to help them get there."

Craig added that competitive cheer has grown in Oregon and become a sizeable statewide community. At the local level, parents and community members have expressed their support financially and through other means over the years, allowing the program to survive and thrive.

Even if the sport is vastly different than when she cheered, Craig said she has developed an appreciation for the hard work her athletes put in. That hard work has paid off in the form of state titles and appearances in national competition – opportunities to put Newberg Youth Cheer on the map and develop future champions at the high school level.

"Back when we cheered, you were really great if you could do a cartwheel," Craig said with a laugh. "Now the sport has changed so much and become so challenging, and we have so many great athletes in our program. These kids work so hard and to see the results is something that really impacts them."

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