Two Muskoka Cheer Teams Qualify For Allstar World Championship

Muskoka Cheer
Photo courtesy of Tony Bentley

Two Muskoka cheer teams will be heading to Florida this May after earning a bid to the Allstar World Championship.

The Storm and Shooting Stars teams from Muskoka Elite Cheer & Tumbling in Bracebridge won a bid to attend the championship, which runs from May 4 to 7 in Orlando, at the Cheer Challenge Cup in late February. Storm includes 15 athletes ages 11 to 16 while the Shooting Stars is made up of 20 cheerleaders from seven to 12 years old. Jaclyn Brown’s daughter Salem has been with the Shooting Stars for two seasons now. When Jaclyn heard about the bid to the championships, it brought tears to her eyes.

“I was one of the lucky ones to be in the gym when the news was announced, and all of the girls on my daughter’s team were sitting watching the TV and just basically waiting to see if their team name would be announced,” Jaclyn said. “It was and everyone screamed.”

Jaclyn said it gives her chills just thinking about the announcement, especially because the team was in a very different position a year ago. Salem did gymnastics before moving to Muskoka, but her family struggled to find a program in the region. She checked out some dance classes before finding cheerleading, and it took just one day for her to declare that cheer was even better than gymnastics.

Muskoka Cheer
Photo courtesy of Stacey Slute

Since then, both Salem and the rest of her team have come a long way, Jaclyn said. She and Salem have been watching videos from last season, and seeing her growth over the last year and a half gives Jaclyn goosebumps.

“She’s grown as a human being just in height alone, but her skills have improved,” Jaclyn said. “She went from doing a walkover for fun to [being] very nearly at her back handspring, and her personality just shines through.”

The championships will be a cheer event like no other, Jaclyn said, so she can’t wait to see hundreds of teams at different skill levels come together. On top of seeing her daughter perform, she’s happy to know that her daughter will get a chance to see the other athletes showcase their skills.

“The way they throw these human beings in the air is just crazy, and it’ll be good to see our younger girls, our Level 1 team, see what they could do if they just stick to it,” she said. “I think this will be a very good experience for the team as a whole, and I like as a parent that I get to watch the teams and have fun, but I also get to watch my daughter’s reaction to it and I think that’s priceless.”

Salem is excited about many parts of the trip, including the plane ride, which will be her first. “I’m also looking forward to seeing other teams compete because I want to see their advances,” she said. “And spending time with my team in Disney and at the water parks, it’s going to be so much fun.”

She’s also ready for the hard work of the competition, particularly when it comes to performing stunts.

“It’s a group activity and we all have to work together to nail the routine, and it’s super fun,” she said. “I also like watching other teams compete because they are really good and strong.”

Fellow Shooting Stars teammate Baylee Slute shares many of the same emotions. Just like Salem, it will be her first trip to the states and her first ride on a plane, creating a mix of nerves and excitement.

She also shares Salem’s love for stunts, especially when it comes to being part of pyramids or holding up another athlete in the air. With eight years of dance experience and a year of recreational cheer under her belt, Slute knows more than most how much time and effort competitive cheer takes.

“It’s not just pom-poms,” Slute said. “It takes a lot of skill.”

Tony Bentley, owner and head coach at Muskoka Elite Cheer & Tumbling, oversees both teams with the help of assistant coaches. He said he was managing his expectations going into the qualifying event, but after seeing the rankings from the first day of competition, he felt good about their chances.

“Every time they succeed at something, it just kind of warms my heart as their coach,” Bentley said. “They work pretty hard and I only see them four hours a week, but I’ve been working with some of these kids for as many as four years. It’s almost like parenting— when they’re excited, you’re excited.”

The Shooting Stars team performing. Photo courtesy of Stacey Slute

The first major step after getting the news was to start fundraising, he said. So far, they’ve received $39,000 in pledges thanks to the efforts of parent volunteers. They’re hoping to raise between $72,000 and $80,000 to help cover flights, registration and other costs associated with the trip.

The team has put together a corporate donation package and is planning a silent auction, so all the details for potential donors will be available on their website in the near future. Supporters can also reach out directly to Bentley or donate to the team’s existing fundraising page. In the meantime, the teams will be working on preparing for the competition itself.

“Both are going to be upgrading their routines, so taking the routines that we have now and adding [to them], particularly in difficulty, before we get down to the United States,” he said. “The biggest one is just cleaning up the execution and making sure that the routines look as presentable as possible when they’re down there.”

This is the first time the club has traveled together to a large event in the US, he said, so it’s a feather in their cap as an organization. It’s also the first time he knows of a Muskoka-based cheer team qualifying for an event like this, so it’s an exciting accomplishment for all involved.

Bentley hopes to bring the girls to train at one of the more famous cheer gyms in Orlando along with hosting team bonding events like special practices and team dinners. Still, he said, the main focus of their trip will be staying in competition mode and executing their routines as best as they can.

“It wasn’t something we were really anticipating this year,” Bentley said, “but now that we are on this journey, it’s a very exciting one.”

To donate, visit the team’s GoFundMe page or contact Tony Bentley at Watch the video below to see the Shooting Stars find out they had won a bid for the championship.


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