Twelve months of organising, hard work, training and planning has paid off for a Whangārei cheerleading troupe who came away from two Australian competitions with a swag of gold, silver and bronze medals.
Blackout Cheer, run by star young gymnast Grace Hegh, aged 16, and her mum Andrea, is on a high after major success at competitions across the Tasman.
''The tour took 12 months of organising and initially we were only taking one team, Black Gold Junior Level 1 but we ended up taking Black Ice Senior Level 3 as well in the end,'' Hegh said.
The Blackout Australia Tour contingent was made up of 57 people - 19 athletes and the rest supporters, and the decision to take two troupes paid off. Black Gold won two gold medals and a silver, and Black Ice won bronze.
''There were challenges along the way and we had several changes to the teams as people who had committed initially found they couldn't attend and we had a few girls that had sustained injuries - outside of cheerleading - that either couldn't continue or were sidelined and had to be replaced,'' she said.
The teams trained hard in the weeks leading up to flying out.
''We were fortunate to have the school holidays just before we left so we could put on the extra trainings and a showcase for the public. The showcase went really well and we had between 150 and 170 people come along and support the girls. It was so good to have so many people come and support the teams, and the feedback from the crowd was fantastic. Unfortunately, most of the athletes' extended family and friends don't get to see the girls really perform because all of the competitions are in Auckland or beyond.''
The first competition on the Blackout Australia tour was Australian All Star Cheerleading Federation (AASCF) Spring Carnival over two days at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Black Gold competed on day one hitting a fantastic routine and taking out second place in their division. Black Gold also took out the small gym Grand Champions having scored the highest points in their division for a gym with under 75 members, Small Gym Top Tier All Star Gym award for the entire competition (this is for the gym that scores the highest points in their gym size), and a Bid to The Pinnacle! Pinnacle is an invitation only competition open to teams that score over a certain benchmark.
''To say that we were blown away was an understatement. Black Gold had absolutely smashed it,'' Hegh said.
The following weekend was the Australasian Majors competition. Level 1 teams compete on day one and Level 3 on day one and two.
''Black Gold hit the floor and absolutely smashed their routine hitting zero. Hitting zero means that they hit a perfect score for what they had choreographed. We were all so excited but knew there was some tough competition so waiting for awards was incredibly nerve-racking as we were hoping to medal.
''When they called out third place and it wasn't us we were all 'oh my gosh are we in the medals or were we a team that wasn't going to medal'? Everyone was really hoping that from our outstanding performance that we would not be below third place but you never really know.
''When they called out second place and it wasn't us our emotions were actually at fever pitch had we actually done it? Was Black Gold going to take out the gold? When they said the words 'and taking out the division and also receiving an at-large bid to the Global Games in Hawaii from Blackout Cheer give it up for Black Gold', we all just went crazy.''
Black Gold also placed third from 39 level 1 teams for Level 1 Grand Champs only missing the top spot by 0.7 of a point.
''Then it was Black Ice's turn and they certainly didn't disappoint. They looked incredible and just as Black Gold had, Black Ice left it all on the mat hitting zero,'' Hegh said.
At the end of day one Black Ice was sitting in third place (the score is 30 per cent day one, 70 per cent day two).
''Day two's performance was fantastic and we only had a small error but we all knew that when the competition is this tough one small error can mean the difference between first and last,'' she said.
''Waiting for awards was actually excruciating. When they called us out in third place we were so happy we couldn't believe it. Black Ice had done enough to take home third, what an achievement in this tough division.
''When Black Ice was also called out in third place for overall Grand Champions of level 3 out of 15 teams we were all so overwhelmed. Black Ice's division was so tough that the top three teams were also the overall top three teams for Level 3 Grand Champions.''
Hegh is still buzzing after the success over two weekends in Australia.
''Honestly, I am still on a high that Blackout Cheer did so incredibly well on the Blackout Australia Tour. All the hours spent organising accommodation, transport and training has paid off and after only being open for not quite two years we had not only footed it but conquered some of the big guns in the Australasian Cheerleading community.''
She's keen to go back and compete again next year, and the planning has already started.