Thousands Gather In Biloxi For Cheerleading Championships

Some athletes normally relegated to the sidelines have taken center stage at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center this weekend.

That's the site of the 3rd Annual Beach Jam Cheer and Dance National Championship.

Like any athlete, for cheerleaders, preparation is everything.

But for the more than four thousand cheerleaders on the Coast this weekend for Beach Jam Open Nationals, the prep work doesn't start with curlers and makeup, it ends there.

"Yeah, for the common person Cheer leading is more than just a sideline like people remember. There doing extreme athletic skills, tossing girls up in the air, sometimes 20 or 30 feet up in the air, catching them. Stunts where girls fly on top of either a guy or 4 others girls. And then tumbling. So they're incorporating alot of aerobic skill and a lot of athletic skills to put together their routines," says event co-owner Dan Kessler.

Nailing those routines is the goal of every one of the nearly 200 cheer leading and dance teams from all across the country, competing at Beach Jam 2005.

"This weekend is one of the biggest cheer leading competitions and dance there is in the southeast and almost the U.S.," says Kessler.

Team work, even when answering reporters questions, is a must.

Spirit is also vital.

But in the end, it's their amazing athleticism that separates good teams from Grand Champions.

First place teams, each team wins a trophy.

They win a national championship banner that they can hang on their school or gym.

Each kid gets an individual medal, and they also get a big national championship sweatshirt to go home with as well.

The rest get something else. Lessons in sportsmanship, camaraderie, and the experience of going pom pom to pom pom, with the best of the best.

The competition continues through tomorrow when National Champions for each division and overall Grand Champions will be named.