A self-professed “little, tiny cheerleading gym” in Lewiston has earned the right to be world travelers, perhaps even world champions.

Five teams of all ages and two stunt groups from Planet Cheer won their division championships last weekend at the New England Cheerleading Association open championship in Kingston, R.I.

With the titles came two huge prizes. Planet Cheer earned the Championship Cup as the outstanding team of the meet, good for $5,000. Each member of the winning squads also received a paid, open invitation to participate in the halftime show at the 2008 National Football League Pro Bowl in Honolulu next February.

“We had kids that were ready to buy the plane tickets right then,” said Planet Cheer co-owner and coach Deneka Deletetsky. “We’re going to get a group together that wants to go and then start fundraising.”

Planet Cheer is also in the process of practicing and putting together its travel package for the NLCC world championship meet in Baltimore, scheduled for May 5-6.

Thanks to first-place finishes in the qualifying meets, each cheerleader’s $100 entry fee is waived. The gym must furnish its own travel and accommodations.

“We’ve been told that it takes a while to build your gym. Everything just seems to be clicking this year,” Deletetsky said. “There’s a great, positive force in the gym. To be from Maine and competing against gyms with 120 and up to 200 kids when we’re just a little gym of 50, it’s amazing.”

Triumphant team members in the New England championship ranged in age from 5 to adult. Fifty school age children and 20 post-graduates currently compete on Planet Cheer’s all-star teams.

Ever the crowd-pleasers, Planet Cheer expects to introduce its newest and most comical team later this spring. Deletetsky, sister and co-owner Tiffany LeBrun and tumbling coach Matt Hanley are in the process of recruiting and training a “dads” team, comprised of adult, male family members of Planet Cheer competitors.

“It’s funny, in the Planet Cheer family, the dads get totally psyched up about it,” said Deletetsky. “So we’ve put together a team of uncles, brothers, dads and grandfathers. It should be an absolute riot.”

The men are expected to share the mat at Planet Cheer’s annual friends and family event. It’s slated for 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, at Lewiston High School.

Each of the competition and stunt teams will take the floor, as well, showcasing their accomplishments before the brief cheering offseason.

“We’re four years into it, and it’s exciting,” Deletetsky said. “They’re real athletes. You look at all our cheerleaders and they’re absolutely ripped. They’re jacked from all the tumbling and stretching.”

Lewiston Elks will host a benefit dance for Planet Cheer’s trip to Baltimore. It runs from 8 p.m. to midnight on April 6. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door.

The lodge is roughly a mile away from the gym’s new location at Central Maine Athletic Center on Westminster Street. Planet Cheer began as the Fortier Family Cheer Center in Auburn before moving in September.

“They renovated the old racquetball courts for us,” Deletetsky said. “We have access to the entire building. It has been a great move for us.”

For more information about Planet Cheer and their upcoming out-of-state trips, visit its web site at www.fortierfamilycheercenter.com.


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