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Cheerleading enterprise finds itself up in the air


HUDSON–”Dare to Dream. Work to Achieve it. Never Settle for Less than Your Best.

Believe U R Champions,” say the words painted on the wall at the XCG Xtreme Cheer Gym in the former L&B Furniture factory near the Hudson waterfront.

On January 20, hard work, perhaps helped along by these mottos, paid off as teams from the gym scored well at the Upstate Challenge High Rolls Competition held at the Times Union Center in Albany. The Infernos, the gym’s senior level 3 team and Blaze, the junior level 2 team, both placed first. Solo performer Madison Rowe took a mini level first prize and Marissa Ensign scored first in solo and third in duet in the mini division.

“These kids work very hard on these routines all year long making sure they are ready to go. It showed on Sunday and Michele and I couldn’t be any prouder,” said coach Marily Bell.

For 10 years Ms. Bell and Michele Rowe have run a gym where kids ages 3 to 18 can learn tumbling, gymnastics and hip hop dance for fun, fitness and competition. During that time their cheerleading and hip hop dance teams have competed regionally in the Northeast and have traveled to national competitions at DisneyWorld in Florida. Shelves of trophies speak of their success.

But now, faced with daunting economic problems, they gym may have to close if they don’t reach the right level of sponsors, partners and generate more community support.

In the meantime, the two women don’t turn kids away. A parents booster group raises funds to help support the operation and to fund travel to competitive events like the Albany event.

“All kids should have this an opportunity to try this. It’s a shame gymnastics are no longer taught in schools,” said Ms. Bell.

When they opened at their current location XCHG shared the rent with two other groups, a dance group and a Zumba fitness program, on the 4,000 square foot space with 20 foot ceilings. Now those other groups have dropped out at the same time that the rent has gone up.

On a school day afternoon in December, a typical afternoon at the gym, two eight-year-old girls worked out during private lessons, running across the vast floor covered with mats before diving into a back flip or cartwheel, with and without the assistance of their coach. There’s a chill in the air but the young athletes didn’t seem to feel it.

Teams of high school students arrive wearing tank tops that say “Yes, I really am this good.” They practice standing pyramids and other feats, like tossing a gymnast 10 to15 feet into the air and catching him or her as if the flier weighed no more than a sack of potatoes, and some of them don’t look like they do. There’s not an obese child to be found, but stories abound about how kids need smaller uniforms after a year of training. The high school team was working on the fast moving, tightly choreographed 2-1/2 minute routine that earned its members their victory last weekend.

The sport of cheer leading has evolved in recent years from the line of high school girls who perform jumps, cartwheels and pom-pom routines at basketball and football games into a highly competitive sport that demands serious training and choreography. The sport is no longer taught in local schools.

Marily Bell was a cheerleader at Ockawamick High School in Claverack. She has coached for 25 years at Taconic Hills High School and took over the district’s summer cheerleading program in the 1980s before opening a private cheerleading training facility with Ms. Rowe, a third grade teacher at Taconic Hills. Ms. Rowe is the mother of Madison, a junior cheerleading team member who, at eight years old, can already do a double back handspring.

The group is now looking for a more affordable space while hoping that more sponsorships will help it remain at its current space. Daytime slots from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. are available for rental most days and some evening and weekend time slots are on offer too. This is an opportunity for a tai chi or yoga group, and 20-foot ceilings might accommodate trapeze classes or a climbing wall.

For more information contact Marily Bell at 518 851-7966 or email



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