Three cheers for Canada’s best

Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers cheerleaders have won a national title at the Canadian National Cheer and Dance Championships.

Alexandra Purgavie (ushered by teammate Jolene Hadfield at last Saturday's rodeo parade) carries the tall trophy Lord Tweedsmuir's cheer squad won at the nation's most prestigious championship earlier this month.

You know it’s a big deal when the trophy is actually larger than the smallest member of your team.

Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers cheerleaders have proven they’re the best in the country, winning their division at the Canadian National Cheer and Dance Championships May 13-15 in Niagara Falls.

The 19-member team delivered two, 2.5-minute routines, competing in the senior advanced division.

Their achievement is particularly noteworthy when you consider they were up against strong competition in their division – and managed to overcome an unexpected injury during their final performance, when Alexandra Purgavie hyper-extended her knee and had to walk off the mat mid-routine.

Her teammates carried on, delivering a flawless performance that earned them the gigantic championship trophy.

“When the girls came off the mat, they burst into tears because they knew this was the last time they were going to compete together,” Loretta Scott, the team’s staff liaison, said. Three cheerleaders are graduating and a fourth has been sidelined by a chronic injury that will prevent her from competing next year.

The close-knit squad has been putting in 12 hours of practices a week since September, in addition to individual workouts for conditioning.

Getting the massive trophy home proved another challenge. Air carrier Westjet said they had to check the award as baggage because it exceeded carry-on size restrictions.

But when a baggage handler warned team captain Kelsey Boule their prize would be destroyed by other suitcases in the luggage area, the cheerleaders pleaded with a steward to let them bring it on board despite the rules.

They carefully wrapped it inside team jackets and were allowed to store it in an overhead cabin compartment.

The  Canadian National Cheer and Dance Championship is the most prestigious cheer event in the country. It draws more than 300 teams from across North America.