For a time period spanning two minutes-and-30 seconds on Jan. 12, the 11 girls comprising the Shimmer All-Stars’ junior level-2 cheerleading squad showcased everything that cheering represents.
That was how long the Shimmer squad’s routine lasted at ‘The Edge’ regional scholastic and all-stars’ cheerleading competition (taking place at Overhills High School in Spring Lake, N.C.), which featured more than 40 combined teams from throughout North Carolina.
During that brief window of time, the team dazzled judges and spectators alike with a dizzying array of backhand springs, tumbles, motions and stunts set to rapidly-changing music.
And when it was all said and done, the Shimmer girls were awarded first-place honors in the all-stars competition, which they began rehearsing for back in June of 2012.
“Most of these girls have worked their entire lives to get these skills,” said Shimmer coach Meagan Carpenter, who also owns and runs Glamour Athletics, a Laurinburg-based all-star cheerleading, gymnastics and dance studio that is home to 90 students. She is also the coach of the Scotland High School varsity cheerleading squad.
“They want it, live it and have our team colors in their bedrooms. They all care deeply for one another, and I can’t take credit for any of the success they’ve had because of all the hard work they put into cheering,” she said.
Carpenter has called cheerleading her “life’s work,” and it’s easy to see why when glancing at the Scotland County-native’s extensive resume.
Prior to graduating from Scotland High School in 2004, Carpenter was the first and only recipient of the SHS 4-A “player of the year in cheerleading” award which capped off an All-American cheerleading career for the Scots’ alumni. Cheerleading also granted Carpenter the opportunity to perform during the half-time show of the 2004 Capital One Citrus Bowl between NCAA Division-1 football teams Georgia and Purdue.
Carpenter continued her cheerleading and academic career at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where she cheered for both the Braves and the ‘Cheer Sensations,’ the latter being a nationally-ranked team.
In 2010, Carpenter took over Glamour Athletics (then known as Top Dawgz Cheer Gym, where she also was a trainer) from original owner Amanda Dixon and hasn’t looked back since. And having a full understanding of the hard work and benefits that defines being a cheerleader, Carpenter has dedicated her life to passing her experiences on to the next generation.
“It benefits everyone that wants to participate,” said Carpenter, who also holds a MA in Industrial Organizational Psychology and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership. “It’s definitely hard work, because after I give these girls a routine they practice it five to six times a week for 90 minutes. But it brings people together, and if it touches their lives in a positive way then it’s not just cheerleading.”
The camaraderie that exists amongst the Shimmer squad is a prime example of how cheerleading “brings people together.” The girls on the team range in age from 6-16, and that age gap plus the amount of time that they spend on the road traveling to events has created a unique dynamic in the group.
“They have a really interesting relationship,” Carpenter said. “The younger ones on my team seem like they are more mature hanging with the older girls, while my older cheerleaders have developed patience helping the young ones learn the routines and moves. No matter their age, all of my girls are really focused and help each other out.”
And just like herself in the home stretch of her SHS career, Carpenter has seen cheerleading help build a bridge to educational opportunities for her kids beyond grade school. Three of Carpenter’s former pupils (Cassie Barringer, Miranda Locklear and Taylor Bisbee) obtained All-American honors as members of the Fighting Scots, and all have gone on to cheer at Wingate University and UNCP, respectively. And two current SHS junior cheerleaders are members of the Shimmer squad as well: Netta Walcott and Cearra Blackwell.
“A lot of Scotland County boys have year-round sports programs that may give them the skills to one day play in college, so that’s one of the things I try to offer here for local girls,” Carpenter said. “Nowadays they’re offering scholarships for cheerleading, and it’s great that cheerleading has become another avenue that students can continue at college and help keep them motivated to stay in school.”
If you’ve been a member of the Shimmer squad, chances are you are well-traveled as well. For different events, the team has traveled with Carpenter and assistant coach Stacy McKenzie as far as Myrtle Beach and Tennessee. They will continue that trend March 8-10 of this year when Shimmer will journey to Atlanta for the National All-Star competition.
The typical Shimmer season goes nearly year-round, with various breaks and events scattered throughout. And for Carpenter and her girls, the hectic schedule proves to be time well-spent.
“It’s just so worth it to me to work with these girls as much as I do,” Carpenter said. “It’s a great confidence booster for them, and it’s also a fun celebration of being a woman. They get to wear crazy makeup and hair styles, and it’s just a lot of fun for all involved.”