Athens grad part of national champion cheer team
When the Cheer Extreme Coed Elite Level 5 team received a national title this past weekend, a Valley native was among its ranks.
Joel Kreider, a 2012 graduate of Athens Area High School, helped the team win its division in the National Cheerleaders Association National Championships in Dallas, Tex., defeating a Miami team by four-hundredths of a point. The team now has its sights set on the world championships in Orlando, Fla. in April.
"It was quite the experience," Kreider said of the competition, one of the largest in competitive cheerleading. "It was really awesome."
Kreider said the national championships are "kind of like the Super Bowl of cheerleading," comparing the upcoming world championships to the Olympics.
In addition to competing in cheer on a national level, Kreider is also a student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he has been named to the dean's list, and gives lessons to younger gymnasts, said his mother, Colleen Parshall of Athens.
To prepare for the national competition, Kreider said the team practices three to four times a week, sometimes for two hours at a time, sometimes for four or five. The schedule will increase significantly to prepare for the world championship, he said.
Kreider began to take gymnastics lessons at Owego Gymnastics after developing an interest in the sport. He first became interested in all-star cheerleading during his junior year of high school, when a friend talked him into joining the Waverly Huskies team. All-star cheerleading is more rooted in stunts and gymnastics moves than high school cheerleading, Parshall said. "It's completely different," she said.
The next year, in the hopes of joining a stronger gym, Kreider auditioned for and made a team in Rochester, N.Y., traveling to the city three times a week to practice. While there, the team he was part of placed 13th out of 73 at the world championships.
After graduation, Kreider initially planned to attend Penn State, where he had made the football cheerleading squad. However, his SAT score would have prevented him from attending the main campus in State College his first year, Parshall said.
With one year left to pursue all-star cheerleading - limited to participants 18 years old and younger - Kreider chose to try out for the North Carolina-based Cheer Extreme team. The gym, he said, "is pretty renowned in the cheer world." He also applied to, and was accepted at, UNC Greensboro.
"He's very driven to make everything work," Parshall said. "He just wants to do what he loves."
Kreider worked at Rosh's Ice Cream and Schucky's Bakery in Sayre and coached at Owego Gymnastics while maintaining his practice schedule in Rochester. He also kept up his grades in high school, remaining on the honor roll and participating in the National Honor Society, Parshall said.
Kreider's teachers, who hadn't known about his involvement on the team for most of the school year, were "in awe that he was able to keep up his grades" with his rigorous training schedule, Parshall said.
Kreider continues that pace today, continuing to balance national competition with school and coaching. He returned from the national championships in Texas to a week full of midterm exams, Parshall said.
"He's definitely an inspiration," she said. "I think he can inspire others to reach for the stars."
Kreider often brings homework to the gym and studies instead of having the free time most college students have, he said. He attends competitions every other weekend, but "during the week, it's all about school," he said.
Kreider said that the sacrifices he makes are worth the successes he's shared with his team. "I wouldn't be anywhere else," he said. "It's what I love to do."
Kreider and the Cheer Extreme team can be seen on CBS Sports March 14 and 21, when the channel is scheduled to air a two-hour special on the national championships.
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: email@example.com.