Stunts are the usual fare at Universal Studios, but over the weekend, they really were something to shout about for about 4,000 cheerleaders competing at the 10th annual California Spirit Championships.
The all-girl varsity squad from Agoura High School and the junior varsity team from Granada Hills High won first place prizes in the pompom dance category, while El Camino Real High in Woodland Hills took home top prizes in the junior varsity cheer division and all-girl foursome stunt division.
The competition drew some 256 schools--elementary to college level--from the southwestern United States.
There were clapping and screaming, hand-jiving and hip-hopping. There were flips--and some flops--and some gravity-defying throws.
"These are true athletes," said event organizer Carlos Onofre. "Cheerleading isn't a sport, but it should be."
Onofre said the students--who include male yell leaders--lift weights, run and practice gymnastics just so they can cheer on others. But during competitions, the tables are turned, with the cheerleaders enjoying some support of their own from the stands.
"This is the icing on the cake for them," he said.
"It's exciting to show off what we've worked so hard on," said Samira Maknoon, an Agoura High School sophomore.
"Competitions bring us closer," team member Jennifer Higgins, 16, said. "We're like sisters."