We made it, ya’ll! The dark days between showcase season and serious competition season are coming to an end. We had The Majors for a brief reprieve, where we saw many of our favorites go head-to-head with their biggest competitors for the first time. Still, most performances were riddled with “we’re still figuring out this routine” kind of mistakes that are acceptable in January but become less so in February leading up to the second-most important (or most important, depending on who you ask) competition for Worlds teams: NCA.
As a treat to get us through the wait until March 1st, we’ve got a tiny little competition you may have heard of before: CHEERSPORT Nationals. To warm up for NCA (and next week we promise full, comprehensive previews for all Level 5 NCA divisions), we’re taking a look at who will be in Atlanta this weekend, discussing competition in some of the most popular divisions, predicting results, and making sure you know which routines to look out for!
CHEERSPORT will be streamed live on FloCheer, but if you don’t have a paid subscription, you can follow along with us here at The Last Pass. We’ll be live blogging Level 5 divisions!
We’ll start this week’s previews with perhaps the most anticipated division of any competition involving Worlds teams: Large Senior.
Heavy Hitters: Cheer Extreme Senior Elite, Stingray Allstars Orange
Ones to Watch: ACE Chiefs
Up-and-Comers: Cheer Savannah Lady Lace
This will really be a contest between Senior Elite and Stingrays Orange, and it would take pretty major mistakes for either to fall out of the 1-2 rankings for this division. Senior Elite has positioned themselves as slight favorites if you consider what we’ve seen so far this season: in short, SE has had more hit or close-to-hit routines, while many of Orange’s have contained more noticeable and/or deduction-heavy mistakes. Senior Elite also won at Majors, showing that despite considerable “they need more difficulty” commentary on the Twitterverse, they can hang with the rest of the division (and so can their raw score). Let’s take a closer look.
Cheer Extreme Senior Elite
Here is Senior Elite’s last competition performance at Spirit of Hope about a month ago:
So it’s like this: The sky is blue. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Senior Elite is good at stunts and pyramids.
While you can see two small adjustments in this video (we wouldn’t even call them bobbles) during the second sequence, Senior Elite has been generally nailing their stunts this season. Their sequences look crisp and clean and are just pretty to watch. The pyramid is so Senior Elite, so 2012- and 2013-esque that we keep half expecting Erica Englebert to pop up in a hitch somewhere. This year’s routine, more than their last few, seems reflective of the Senior Elite that first became a fan favorite and it does appear to have most of the pieces of the puzzle needed to contend for the top spot this weekend and in Large Senior going forward.
That said, the “they need more difficulty” commentary is not totally unfounded. It’s not a secret that Courtney Smith-Pope knows a scoresheet and uses it wisely. Still, we’re looking for Senior Elite to up their tumbling game to really level the playing field in every category against their competition.
Stingray Allstars Orange
Here is Orange competing at Encore earlier this season:
The thing about Orange is that they’re just going to check all the boxes they need to check to get the job done, and they’re going to do it with about a 9.99999% execution. Unlike some of their Large Senior competitors, they aren’t packing in extra frills or themes or sassy motions. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing that some teams do, and actually, the fact that each of the “Big 5” in this division have their own personality is what makes the division so exciting and awesome to watch. But let it be stated: Orange’s lack of “showiness” does not mean they lack in showmanship.
Orange generally hides how ridiculously jam-packed and hard their routines are by making them look easy. If you watch their Encore performance, you’ll see doubles abound, clean-as-a-whistle jumps and TT-one-to-fulls, and a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it dive roll that’s sky high (there’s the “flair” for you complainers!). The stunts that are in the air are sharp and well-executed, but it’s that “in the air” part that has been their challenge so far this season. In a division this tight and with deduction scoring, it’s pretty much impossible to win when you have a major building issue. If Orange wants to come out on top, they really will need to SYS 1 time.
Here’s the thing, and this goes for both Chiefs and Lady Lace: if you’re not one of the “Big 5,” and you’re brave enough to build a Large Senior team and compete in this division, you’re already badass. No new team is entering this division and winning (or probably even breaking the top 5) in their first few years. Entering a new team in Large Senior means the program, coaches, and athletes are invested enough to look toward building for the future and cultivating their talent to eventually hang in with the big dogs. That’s pretty awesome.
In the meantime, these routines are still pretty darn impressive.
Chiefs have been in the division since 2017 (before which they had been Small Senior and Small CoEd). They came in 7th last year at Worlds, an impressive showing, and this year they’re back for a third year, proving that they aren’t just passing through Large Senior.
Here is Chiefs competition performance from ECC, where they earned a paid bid to Worlds:
So we see an obvious drop in difficulty in this routine compared to the ones we saw from Senior Elite and Orange.
But. Large majority of the team is doing Level 5 tumbling. Their jumps are well-executed and would score just as well (if not better) than any other team in this division. Many of the smaller things—motions, choreography, tumbling execution, dance—show that this is a well-coached and legitimate Large Senior team. With the presumable execution improvements that typically come as the season goes on and teams get more comfortable with performing full out, this routine has potential to surprise and force the usual top 5 to not take that position for granted.
Favorite part of this routine? The flyers tumbling from center into their stunts at 1:05 (a la Cheersport Great Whites 2018, except it looks even cooler with more stunt groups).
Cheer Savannah Lady Lace
Like Chiefs, Lady Lace has been competing Large Senior since 2017 (before which they competed as Small Senior), and placed 9th at last year’s Worlds.
We could not find ANY competition videos of Lady Lace from this year, but we did find this recording of the AllStars United IG Live from a few months ago:
It’s not the perfect video to analyze (I mean we watched it sideways) and, if you watch the coaches chatting in the beginning, you’ll learn that at the time of this recording, this routine was brand new for the team. Still, you can see the potential here, and while there are some mistakes, a lot of it is well-executed despite the fact that they’d only been doing the routine for a few days. Tumbling timing and execution are both good overall. The pyramid is fluid with lots of movement and one of the bright spots in this run-through. It will be interesting to see what Lady Lace brings to Atlanta this weekend since we really haven’t seen them since before competition season started.
We all know anything can happen. Predictions are trash. We’re doing it anyway. Here’s how we see Large Senior panning out this weekend:
Winner: Cheer Extreme Senior Elite. They’ve got a confidence boost coming off of Majors and so far, their consistency has been on point. We’re predicting the Ladies of Teal will come away with this win.
Potential Spoiler: Stingray Allstars Orange. Let’s be real, this isn’t really a spoiler. With a hit routine, it’s just as much Orange’s game as it is Senior Elite’s. What we’ll be waiting to see is whether or not they can get the hit.
Additional Placements: Your guess is as good as ours. The two videos above are the only full performance videos we could find of either team. Chiefs have the difficulty edge, but we haven’t seen Lady Lace since the beginning of December. This could go either way.
Large Senior times/locations are 6:00-6:30pm, Arena B4 for both Saturday and Sunday. See the full CHEERSPORT schedule here.
Have thoughts of your own on Large Senior this weekend? Share in the comments below!
Stay tuned for our next Cheersport preview tomorrow: Large Senior CoEd!
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