Photo depicting the HEIR Academy Cheerleading team holding up their trophy.

Cheering for the Cheerleaders: The Northwest Premier Junior Football Cheer Competition

by Susan Fried


The gym inside Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines reverberated with the sounds of family, friends, and fans trying to out-cheer each other during the Northwest Premier Junior Football (NWPJF) Cheer Competition. Six teams, including their minis (the youngest teams), competed for trophies and the pride of being the best cheer squad in the league: the CD Panthers, Benson Bruins, Renton Rangers, 5 Star, Jr. Huskies, and HEIR Academy.

The competition began with a moment of silence to honor the life of CD Panther coach and beloved father, husband, and friend D’Vonne Pickett Jr., whose life was tragically cut short last month. D’Vonne’s wife Keanna Pickett joined Franklin High School Cheer coach Shay Cooper and CD Panther President Chalayia Jackson on the gym floor during the remembrance.

The competition was fierce with Renton and HEIR making history by being the first two teams to tie for first in the annual competition. All six teams performed and were judged on their stunts, timing, originality, and unity. In addition to the six cheer teams, the audience was entertained by the Franklin High School cheerleaders and a dance performance by Kutt’N’Up, whose members include several former cheerleaders. 

The audience participated by making lots of noise in support of their teams. In that category, judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm, everybody won.

Photo depicting the CD Panthers running through a team-building activity before their performance.
Members of the CD Panther Cheerleading squad do a team-building activity called “bulldog” before the start of the competition. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting CD Panther cheerleaders performing on a gymnasium floor.
The CD Panther mini cheerleaders put their all into their performance in front of the judges. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting a toddler CD Panther Cheer fan sitting atop an adult's shoulders cheering in a crowd.
A tiny CD Panther cheerleader fan helps cheer on her team at the competition. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting the CD Panther cheerleaders forming a pyramid during their routine.
The CD Panther Cheerleading team forms a pyramid during the NWPJF Cheer Competition on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting the Benson Bruins mini cheerleaders gathered to pose for a photo.
The Benson Bruins mini cheerleaders. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting Benson Bruins cheerleaders performing on a gymnasium floor.
The Benson Bruins cheerleaders perform during the NWPJF Cheer Competition. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting the Renton Rangers bonding before their performance.
The Renton Rangers do some team bonding before the start of the NWPJF Cheer Competition on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting an HEIR Academy cheerleader performing a leap.
An HEIR Academy cheerleader leaps into the air during the team’s performance. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting parents wearing HEIR Academy T-shirts cheering loudly for their team.
The family and friends of HEIR Academy cheerleaders make some noise for their team during the competition. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting the Jr. Huskies cheerleaders performing on a gymnasium floor.
The Jr. Huskies Cheerleading team. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting the Jr. Huskies Cheerleading team performing their routine.
The Jr. Huskies Cheerleading team. (Photo: Susan Fried)
Photo depicting the Jr. Huskies Cheerleading fans cheering in the stadium.
The Jr. Huskies Cheerleading fans show their support for their cheer squad during the NWPJF Cheer Competition on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines. (Photo: Susan Fried)

Susan Fried is a 40-year veteran photographer. Her early career included weddings, portraits, and commercial work — plus, shes been The Skanner News’ Seattle photographer for 25 years. Her images have appeared in the University of Washingtons The Daily, The Seattle Globalist, Crosscut, and many more. She’s been an Emerald contributor since 2015. Follow her on Instagram @fried.susan.

📸 Featured Image: HEIR Academy cheerleaders hold up the trophy they shared with the Renton Rangers. Both teams tied for first place in the Northwest Premier Junior Football (NWPJF) Cheer Competition on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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