IWAKUNI, Japan - Cheerleaders from 12 different Department of Defense Education Activity high schools in Japan, Guam and South Korea competed in an all-American cheerleading qualifying competition at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 7, 2013.
The all-American qualifier was part of a five-day camp coordinated by the National Cheerleaders Association held inside the Matthew C. Perry High School gymnasium.
Benjamin M. Wells, one of five instructors with NCA that came to Japan, was hand selected by NCA corporate to help run the camp and judge the all-American tryouts.
“It’s a huge honor to be part of an all-American team in any sport,” said Wells. “They are aware of how big of an opportunity this is for them to be on an all-American team and they take it seriously, we take it seriously, and it’s a big deal for them.”
Contestants performed individually and judges graded them in categories to include tumbling, jumps, voice projection and more. The all-American title is earned only if contestants meet the requirements of each category.
The NCA staff nominated approximately one-third of the 151 cheerleaders to partake in the all-American tryouts.
Of the nominees, only six met the standards and earned the title. The finalists were: Victoria San Miguel from Kubasaki High School, Marine Corps Base Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Alysha Gilliard from Kubasaki High School, MCB Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Kayla Anderson from Kubasaki High School, MCB Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Erika Bongo from Kadena High School, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, Kaleigh Pedersen from Yokota High School, Yokota Air Base, Yokota, Japan, Bryn Suckart from Edgren High School, Misawa Air Base, Misawa, Japan.
Out the qualifiers, Bongo came out on top with the highest overall score.
Bongo, who began cheerleading two years ago, said in order to prepare for the tryouts she focused her training on pushing herself to surpass her comfort zone.
After being announced as the top all-American, Bongo celebrated by hugging her teammates and coach, to whom she accredited all of her capabilities and efforts.
“It feels great and I feel totally blessed,” said Bongo. “They really support me, and I couldn’t have a better team. My coach is the best, and she pushes me a lot.”
All-American cheerleading tryouts are held annually and require those who have earned the title previously to compete again to keep it.