WINDSOR, N.S. – With a growing membership, both locally and from abroad, the ICE cheer group is slated to have a very big year as competition season heats up.
As intense pop music blares through the speakers, athletes are flipping, jumping and posing with determination - nailing specific components of their routines, while coaches look on.
One of the newest members of ICE is Darian Robichaud, 18, from Saint John, New Brunswick, who moved to the area in June to join the program.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a part of a really good cheer gym that showed great work ethic,” Robichaud said. “When I came here I saw that there was lots of conditioning, it’s just been a great experience.”
He’s been involved with cheer for five years and gymnastics for seven - but he has big goals on the horizon.
“It was a rocky start, because it was very different, but I think it’s been great,” he said. “It is more intense, I’ve gone home and not been able to move at all.”
Robichaud is on an over 18 team and the world team, that will compete at the worlds in Florida if they qualify. He also assists as a coach.
His main goal is to win the world championships.
“It’s my main priority and really why I moved here,” he said.
But beyond that, Robichaud said he’s also been completely embraced by his teammates.
“We’re all one big family,” he said.
Chris Cunningham, All-Star Director, says all of the program’s teams are already laser-focused on nailing their routines.
They’ll be heading to Moncton on Jan. 19 for the Tidal Blast Championships, which represents the first time their season nine teams will go head-to-head against teams from other Atlantic provinces.
ICE is sending 11 of their 12 teams to the event.
“The cool thing about this is that it’ll be everyone’s first time out, we have no idea what the other East Coast programs are doing,” Cunningham said inside the ICE All Stars gym. “And they have no idea what we’re doing. So there’s always a sense of anxiety over the first event because you’re not sure if you’ll be on track.”
Cunningham said there will likely be some errors to pick out here and there, which will help them identify areas to improve on in a competitive setting.
“It feels really good when a team goes out there and they’re able to overcome those small hiccups,” he said.
Their first qualifier for the World Championships will be the East Coast Showdown in February, also in New Brunswick. Then they have two more qualifiers they can compete in later in the year, one in Truro, another in Halifax.
“Our motto this season is harder, better, faster, stronger,” he said. “It’s all about making things move faster, having more difficult transitions, we really want to see how our teams would handle the added pressure.”
#WD2TH is a secret hashtag that the athletes are trying to figure out, but it’s a tight-lipped secret, only known by the coaching staff. They’ll reveal it at the end of the season.
“The kids trying to decode each letter and figure out what it’s all about, very much so speaks to our professionalism and making sure things are done the right was,” he said. “They’re always trying to dig and figure out what’s going on.”
ICE was also the beneficiary of a highly successful Chase The Ace competition in Windsor, and that windfall has allowed the team to expand their travel budget and expand.
“It really helped our families, and it increased our awareness, we had lot more people come try out after that,” he said. “It’s allowed us to travel to California this year, a first time for us.”
They went from eight teams last year to 12.
The year prior, ICE also went to the World Championships in Orlando, Florida for the first time. They’re hoping to head back this year even stronger.
“Our teams are much stronger than last year,” he said. “Last season was my first real run with these guys after coming from a big program (in Ontario) and implementing some major changes, and we had a great season.”
“These teams were ready for more this year, so we threw more at them, they’re going to be really really good,” he added.
Laurel Beaudin, 12, from Coldbrook, has been a part of ICE for about five years now and she’s noticed the team grow.
“They make us work really hard and we get better at the sport every single day,” Beaudin said. “It’s just really fun to do.”