Teams from 12 schools practiced stunts, jumps and dances for two full days at Portage High School over the weekend, the school’s first time hosting a Central Wisconsin Cheer Camp.

Starting at 8 a.m. Friday, students worked on their cheerleading skills until 11 p.m. They slept overnight at the school and picked up where they left off Saturday morning for another 12-hour day, said Portage Coach Carrianne Engelhart.

“Hosting over 200 high school and college cheerleaders that chose to come to our camp is, to me, a big deal,” Engelhart said, “and I just want to make sure the community understands how cool that is.”

She said Portage has been hosting a cheer camp for the last 13 years through the Universal Cheerleaders Association, but “things went downhill” with that group. This year, Engelhart instead volunteered to host one of the four CWCC events scheduled for 2019 “and it’s really taken off.”

The 20 members of Portage’s varsity football cheer team and its 15 competitive cheerleaders attended, while also providing meals for the whole camp.

Portage cheer captain and soon-to-be junior Alaynaa Breneman called the attendance this year “amazing.” At previous camps, only one or two other teams would attend for a total of around 50 participants, she said.

CWCC, staffed by professional cheerleaders, also provides one-on-one training for each team, which Breneman appreciated.

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“It’s nice to have them as an extra person to be like ‘OK, try it this way. It might work better,’” Breneman said. “They’re so nice; everyone’s so great and I’m so glad that all these people came.”

Pardeeville High School, which sends its cheerleaders to a CWCC event every year, found Portage to be the most convenient location this year, said Margaret Waldinger, the team’s coach and one of the coaches at the camp. She said camp allows them to learn new material and encourages team bonding to kick off the season.

“The Central Wisconsin Cheer Camp is especially a great instructional group because they have so many staffers that every team gets individual attention by two or more staffers that work with them two days in a row, so this company gives each team and each individual a lot of individualized teaching, attention, encouragement,” Waldinger said. It’s just a really great experience.”

Both Waldinger and Engelhart said one of the benefits of a camp is allowing students to work with other area cheerleaders and learn from their experiences.

A variety of classes were held throughout the day on specific skills. Each team also develops a Homecoming routine, Engelhart said.

The event served as a fundraiser for the Portage cheer program as well, she said, with around 10 local businesses contributing more than $200 each and many others donating less for a total of almost $3,000. Arbor Green Inc., Damon Insurance Services and Century 21 Affiliated were the largest sponsors.

“A lot of community members and businesses have come together to help make this successful for us,” Engelhart said.

Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.

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