In the "tick-tock" scheme of things Meara Tostevin and Sophie Bates tend to "suck it up" because they know only too well anything short of "awesome" has the propensity to unravel the human pyramid in the blink of an eye.
That, my friends, is the uncompromising, high-octane arena of the Cheer Dynamix 006 15-year-old athletes in Hastings.
"It's a high intensity sport but not many people get recognition for that," says Tostevin of a 150-second cheerleading routine that demands maintaining one's fitness.
"Add to that jumps, which requires flexibility and strength," says the teenager who is in her fifth year of the sport. "You also need to base — which is like chucking the flyer into the air — that requires really good technique."
Precision timing is imperative because losing it can lead to chaos and serious injury in a collaboration of often a dozen athletes in a team.
"If the flyer is in the air and doesn't know what you're doing — that is, they're not squeezed and tight — then that means the stunt won't work," says Tostevin before the Hastings club's Valor (level 3, with 9-year-olds as youngest members) team jets off to Brisbane for the Australia All Stars Cheerleading Federation Spring Carnival from October 9-17.
The Napier Girls' High School year 11 pupil, who got into cheerleading under the banner of Bay City, it's a collective highway project of strength, enjoyment and hard work that doesn't receive the appreciation it deserves.
"Running around the stage for two and a half minutes isn't easy at all but you have to make it look easy."
Cheerleaders have to "sell it" — facials or attitude is exaggerated to make the cheer, motion or dance step more appealing — to the judges and audiences. Mood swings and other distractions, such as parties and homework pressures, are parked on the roadside.
If she comes across as an oracle then it's because she is, akin to Bates, a junior coach, starting this year with two classes for 5 to 12-year-olds.
Fundamentally, Tostevin says if every individual performs his or her task diligently then the risk of injury becomes minimal under the tutelage of Claire D'Ath in the clubrooms at 119 Stoneycroft St.
"I think it's really underrated on how we're not considered a sport," says the teenager who competed at level 3 in Los Angeles in the United States last year.
The former Clive School and Napier Intermediate pupil, who performed her first individual tumbling, dance and jump floor routine at the level 3 Cheerfest event in Auckland in June, says anyone who doesn't maintain the acceptable threshold of conditioning will be exposed at a "full-out", which is a dress rehearsal before a major competition.
For the record, level 5 is the highest accolade here and seldom achieved in New Zealand.
Cheer Dynamix 006 club has yielded more than 50 medals collectively.
"Don't believe in the stereotypical cheerleading because it's so much more than that," she says. "It uses up your brain quite a lot with the count and timing so it's not a sport where you just stand there and chant words."
A marathoner, Tostevin found traction with cheerleading at 11. Her sister, Tegan, now 18, studying at Victoria University, was into cheerleading after engaging in gymnastics so Tostevin followed in her footsteps.
"I wasn't really aware of the sport but heard great things about it but then I was like, 'What is cheerleading, really?'," she explains.
The bouncing pom-pom wielding athletes did grab her attention but it wasn't until she gave it a go that it dawned on her how gripping it can be.
"As soon as I started doing it I really enjoyed it," she says, relishing the build-up to four competitions in a year. "But it can be quite hard."
That transition from level 3 to the Royals team (12 to 17-year-olds) in level 4 means the cheerleaders had to crank things up to different standards of tumbling and stunts.
With Auckland establishing the first club, they tend to set the bar in the country and gauge their worth by competing in Australia whenever the opportunity arises.
Having light, young flyers is handy but Tostevin impresses it's equally important the floaters can spread their wings at the top of the pyramid to present themselves to the bases.
"They have control of their bodies more so it's the technique and not all based on size," she says, revealing she is a flyer in the Royals team but not Valor although everything is tailored during choreography so roles can mutate.
She spends about eight hours in her training a week and four coaching, classifying herself as "average" academically but staying on top of her school work.
"It's a good way to be fit, release endorphins and stress."
The difference between gymnasts and cheerleaders, she feels, is the former spend a long time perfecting a specific skill whereas the latter evolve as they progress in multiple tasks to break that monotony.
Mum Evelyn Wheeler, a Napier social worker, and father Ryan Tostevin, an electrician from Clive, have supported her all the way.
In 2016, the International Olympic Committee had recognised the popularity of the code although it remains predominantly in America where about 1.5 million engage in all-star cheerleading.
Close to 100,000 cheerleaders are believed to hail from Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Tostevin and Bates are mindful cheerleading isn't in the Olympic equation yet they are eyeing the worlds but aware 18 is usually the cut-off stage in their sport. Going as a team means everyone will have to attain an elite level 5 rating although there's provision for 18-plus individuals but that'll mean graduating to an open division.
However, only one team represents a nation and in New Zealand it's usually the top club, the Cheer Dynamix Queens of Auckland.
Tostevin hopes to carry on doing it at university in Wellington.
Bates, who will be a flyer and a base in Brisbane, got into it at 7 when she was in Onekawa School.
"It's opened up a lot of things, such as travelling, and it's really improved my confidence, being able to meet a lot of new people."
The Taradale High School year 11 pupil clinched her first individual level 2 gold medal last month.
"It's really pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me as well."
Bates says cheerleading demands huge responsibility which excites her.
The former Taradale Intermediate pupil used to play netball but a promotion at her primary school had caught her interest.
"It was really different to other sports," she says. "In other sports it's like throwing and catching balls but cheerleading has so many different aspects to it."
Her sister, Bailey, 22, has been a coach for three years so Bates had gravitated to it after going to classes and watching her.
Mum Kath Bates, a caregiver, and father Kevin Thompson, a postman, also have encouraged and helped her along the way.
"It'll be cool to experience a world champs but it'll be a lot of hard work," says the level 4 athlete who believes commitment is vital.
Bates says cheerleading eats into one's social life a little but she's balanced it quite well.
D'Ath says the 55-member Hastings club, embracing five teams, will be the only Kiwi flag fliers at a spring carnival in Brisbane enticing close to 150 teams globally.
"It is a sport for everyone, no matter what fitness level and experience," she says, inviting anyone to come along for a free trial class by contacting the club via Facebook, email firstname.lastname@example.org or (027) 8253331.