Guest Post~ Dana Burkey

All-Star Obsession!

If you’ve read Locket Full of Secrets, or even just looked at the cover, you will get to know a side of me that loves suspense, action, and mysterious things. But, one thing readers would not know about me from this book, or even from my others, is that I am obsessed with all-star cheerleading!

Now, before you get confused, all-star cheerleading is not what you see at most school assemblies, or at the side lines of high school football games. All-star cheerleading is the kind you see on ESPN or even on talent shows. It’s the kind of cheerleading where athletes are running, jumping, tumbling, and throwing girls in the air, all while wearing a lot of glitter and massive sparkly bows!

This obsession started when I was in middle school. Once I was no longer interested in Saturday morning cartoons, I started turning on ESPN to watch some non-traditional sports. I loved watching jump-rope competitions, and eventually found competitive dodgeball as well. But, neither of these could compare for the instant love and joy I felt when I saw all-star cheerleading for the first time! Watching girls fly through the air, and watching people do flips and tricks all set to some really fun pop music caught my attention instantly. After the first competition I watched, every weekend and even random night when nothing else was on TV, I checked to see if I could watch more routines, or even re-watches the ones that I loved so much!

Keep in mind, all of this was before the days of YouTube or even DVR, so unless cheerleading was live on TV, I couldn’t watch it. Thankfully, I found it at a perfect time of the year where I could watch months and months of cheerleading before the cheer season was over. When summer came I was busy playing and adventuring and having fun outside, but as soon as fall came around I was back in front of the TV looking for another season of cheer.

Thankfully, as time has gone on, it has been easier and easier to watch the national and world cheerleading competitions online. I no longer have to check ESPN for the latest cheer routines, but instead head to YouTube or twitter to get my fill. And, thanks to the success of certain teams, I now have the joy of following web series to get the behind the scenes action as well! In fact, thanks to social media I can spend all my free time watching cheer, or looking up cheer bows I want to own!

Still not sure if all-star cheerleading is worth your time? If you still need convincing of the talent and energy and amazing athleticism and entertainment that is all-star cheerleading, then head on over to YouTube to look up my favorite teams! If you’re looking for some great girl power, check out the Vancouver All Star’s Ice Queens. I saw these ladies live this past February at a cheer competition I went to in Seattle. I was there to cheer on my niece who is on a local all-star team, and was blown away by the Ice Queens! They had super glittery uniforms, used music from the movie Frozen, and HIT! (In all-star cheerleading, if a team “hits,” it means they did not mess up at all, but rather did every tumbling pass and basket toss exactly as planned.)
Once you are done watching some videos of the Ice Queens ruling the stage (they placed 5th at Worlds in 2015), then be sure to look up the California All Star’s SMOED! This team is a small level 5 coed team from Ventura, California and is my favorite team for sure! In 2015, they did the unthinkable! They won Worlds for the 4th year in a row! Until their incredible winning streak, no team had ever won in the small coed division even 2 times in a row, so the fact that this year they made it to 4 was insane! I have watched their winning routine dozens of times, and cannot wait to see how they do this season. If SMOED can keep their winning streak alive at the 2016 World, then they will do something no team in the history of all-star cheerleading has ever done! But, before they get to their 5th world title in a row, they will have to get through what is sure to be a long season. You can follow their journey on the AwesomnessTV’s YouTube series Cheerleaders.

Between now and the start of this year’s cheer season I am busy buying new cheer bows, and re-watching every routine from last season. And, as if I don't own enough already, I have started making my own cheer bows as well! Basically, this means that I have way too much glitter and sparkle and glam going on all the time. Wait, did I say ‘too much’? More like just enough! In fact, as proof, here is a photo of me and two of my best friends on the way to a cheer competition earlier this year. We went decked out like the cheerleaders to support them, as well as our favorite football team, The Seattle Seahawks!

I hope that you will take the time to check out my new book, Locket Full of Secrets, and that you also will take a look at all-star cheerleading. It truly is entertaining to watch, and the talent displayed each time the teams hit the blue mat is absolutely outstanding!

Locket Full of Secrets Excerpt (End of Chapter 5)

“Night, sweetheart,” dad added before giving me a kiss on the forehead.
As they turned out the light and left my room I found myself suddenly more awake. The dark reminded me of the bathroom just before I saw the body, and that thought got my heart racing once again.
Walking to the window I opened it to allow for some of the spring air to fill my room. It was cold out, but it felt good after being inside for so long. Hearing a metal scraping sound behind me I turned to face my vanity. Moving closer, it became clear what was making the noise. The necklace Olena had given me was swinging where it hung, tapping into the mirror.

It had been a full year since I last saw Olena. My birthday had come and gone, followed by summer and even Christmas. I knew it was time I accepted the fact that I would probably never see her again.
Pulling the wrapped gift box from the top drawer of my dresser I could feel tears pricking my eyes. Despite my promise to open it when I saw her again, I had waited enough.
Ripping the paper off, I tossed it onto the ground, revealing a flat square box. As I took off the lid, a handwritten card from Olena greeted me instantly.
“In case I do not see you again, I wanted you to have this. You are my true best friend, and you will be missed. Do svidanija, Olena.”
Wiping my face with the back of my hand I pulled the card aside to reveal a necklace I knew well. Nestled in the small box was the silver pendant Olena always wore. It was a gift from her aunt and uncle; a locket that never opened. That did not matter though, as the design on its front more than made up for it.
I ran my thumb over the intricate tree design with light pink amethyst stones making up its delicate leaves. Since we shared the same birthday, February 23rd, it was not just my birthstone but Olena’s as well. With shaking hands I undid the clasp and put it around my neck, then looked at my reflection in the mirror.
Staring at the necklace resting atop my sweater I suddenly felt certain I would see Olena again soon. This necklace was too important for her to give me and then disappear from my life forever. Picking up the wrapper and reading the Russian birthday greeting once again, I felt a smile pull at my lips. This present gave me hope. This small amount of silver and stone was a sign from Olena she would always be my friend, no matter what. It was a sign of hope she would come back one day, and proof that our friendship meant something to her.

Pulling the necklace from its perch I held it in my hand, my thumb rubbing over the tree design the same way I had done so many times before. Tears sprang up in my eyes as I turned and threw the necklace at the wall. As it tumbled to the ground I heard it making contact with the floor grate, before falling into the heating duct. It would likely be stuck there, out of reach, until I unscrewed the grate to find it. My
tears blurred my vision as I stumbled back to bed, unable to stop their flow. Crawling under my covers I hugged my new teddy bear tight as my body was wracked with sobs. Pressing my face into my pillow to mask the sounds, I cried until my body was too exhausted to do anything but sleep.