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A Siren Call: Canberra Cheerleaders Duel in the Desert

Ashleigh Went

Give me an S! Given me an I! Give me a…well, let’s just skip straight to the details.

As you read this, Canberra teen athletes will be taking to the stage to compete in an all star cheerleading competition in Palm Springs, California. Sirens Cheerleaders have been hard at work preparing for Duel in the Desert, a Cheer and Dance National Championship which runs over two days.

You may think that pom poms have no place outside American ‘pep rallies’, but you’d be mistaken. Sirens Cheerleaders is a competitive cheerleading program run here in Canberra with more than 150 athletes. Rianna Macdougall is the owner and head coach who started Sirens for fun in 2009, in Townsville. It took off in Canberra and 2011, and has remained successful ever since.

“We train males and females from 18 months through to our parent’s squads in dance, jumps, stunts and tumbling in a fun and safe environment” Rianna says. “We have a strong values focus and have built a great community so we can offer our athletes the best possible opportunities”.

Duel in the Desert is Sirens’ first international competition, and they have prepared a routine especially for the competition, with athletes drawn from several teams within Sirens. Preparation has been intense for the athletes, especially over the busy holiday period.

“The girls have managed to complete their year of schooling, compete at Nationals in late November, have a short break for Christmas, and gave up much of their school holidays for the opportunity to travel to the USA to compete against and see the best” Rianna explains.

“To prepare an entire routine in such a short amount of time required dedication from every team member. They trained for four hours a day, four days a week in the two week lead up, all while undertaking their regular training, family, school work and other commitments. Some of the girls were in our gym every day, every week, for months.”

The Sirens gym in Mitchell is no ordinary gym. It’s a specialist, fully equipped cheer gym. Due to the nature of the sport, cheerleading has its own special requirements. “It’s a team sport where athletes perform choreographed jumps, stunts, tosses, tumbling, pyramids and dance in a fast-paced routine to music” says Rianna.

It’s a sport that’s grown significantly in Australia, especially over the past five years. Last year’s Australian All Star Cheerleading Federation Nationals at the Gold Coast Exhibition Centre saw 7500 athletes compete, and competitions continue to grow by about 30 percent each year.

After all the hard work the athletes have poured into practicing their routine, they are ecstatic at the prospect of finally getting to compete. “The girls, and their families, are all very excited about the competition and the trip overall. To be able to represent Australia at the international level in the sport you love is a dream come true” Rianna says.

“I think they’ll be nervous before they take the floor, like any other competition, but hopefully they’ll enjoy the moment and just be able to be there and do their best”.

The touring team completed a send-off performance last week at their Mitchell gym, and if the reaction from the supportive crowd was anything to go off, the team is sure to achieve success. “They cheered the athletes basket tosses (where athletes are are tossed as high as possible and caught by their team mates), they yelled out support when bases fought hard to save a stunt from falling, and they clapped when flyers showed confidence and showmanship in displaying their skills” Says Rianna.

Regardless of what the outcome is of Duel in the Desert, we are extremely proud of our young athletes for competing on an international level, and wish them luck for their performances over the weekend.


Ashleigh Went

HerCanberra ACTIVE Editor Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. As someone who loves champagne and cheese almost as she loves a sweaty workout, she's all about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She can usually be found with her nose in a book, planning her next adventure, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue. More about the Author