The Lion's Tale

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Bend it like Berger: Freshman competes at international acrobatic competitions around the world

Freshman+Lila+Berger+performs+an+acrobatic+routine+with+her+team.
Freshman Lila Berger performs an acrobatic routine with her team.

Freshman Lila Berger performs an acrobatic routine with her team.

photo courtesy of Lila Berger

photo courtesy of Lila Berger

Freshman Lila Berger performs an acrobatic routine with her team.

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When not in school, freshman Lila Berger can be found lifting and tossing her teammates in the air at national and international acrobatic competitions.

Since she was nine years old, Berger has competed in competitions all over the world, most notably placing first overall at the USA Gymnastics Championships for Acrobatic Gymnastics in Rhode Island, third overall at the International Zwinger Acro Cup in Germany and, most recently, second overall at the Second Las Vegas Acro Cup in Las Vegas.

Berger first discovered her love of the sport when she and a friend signed up for a cheerleading camp at Xtreme Acro and Cheer in Rockville, Md. However, it turned out that the camp was actually geared more towards acrobatics than cheerleading, and by the end of the summer, Berger was asked to join the acrobatics team.

Berger initially liked the sport because it combined two activities that she had been doing at the time: dance and gymnastics. Since that summer, she has remained at Xtreme Acro and Cheer where she competes as part of a trio. The other members of her trio include Churchill freshman Sarah Kimel and 10-year-old Cecelia Rosenberg. The trio is coached by Juli Eicher, who has been working with Berger ever since Berger joined the program six years ago.

“[Berger] has really grown into the sport and has really set strong, high goals for herself and has really become determined to be the best that she can,” Eicher said.

According to Eicher, Berger is one of the few members at Xtreme Acro and Cheer who competes on the international track. Out of the 70 athletes in the program, only 15, including Berger, participate at this level of competition.

Berger and her teammates train over three hours a day, five times a week. Training varies day-to-day and can range from working on specific routines to improving strength and cardio. As the date of a competition approaches, however, the focus of practices shifts to perfecting the routines they plan to perform.

The competitions Berger attends one day, divided into two sessions: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning session is a balance routine in which competitors perform lifts, handstands and similar stances. The afternoon session is a dynamic routine in which competitors perform stunts like tosses and flips. The judges score the competitors based on difficulty, artistry and overall execution.

Most of Berger’s competitions require her to travel. Sometimes Berger travels on her own, sometimes with her whole team and sometimes with her mom, Mindy Berger. According to Mindy, while traveling can be a lot of fun, the team has to remember that they are there to compete.

“It’s like having a job. So, while it’s fun and there is fun time off, her coaches really look at it as she is working and she has a lot of rules she has to follow,” Mindy said.

Outside of the athletes, parents and families also play a major role in the competitions. Their responsibilities include setting up for competitions and raising money for the gym. Most importantly, however, Mindy said the role of the families is just to be supportive of the athletes.

“As a whole, the families are really supportive and play a big role in making sure that the athletes feel comfortable,” Mindy said.

Lila’s most recent competition was the week of Feb. 19 in Las Vegas. It was an international competition that featured teams from China, Japan, Australia and many more countries around the world. Lila and her trio placed second overall, and the rest of the podium was made up of other groups from Xtreme Acro and Cheer.

“It was really cool to be able to compete against other people and see the different styles in different countries,” Lila said.

While Lila likes to travel for competitions, she believes that it has its downsides.

“I miss a lot of school for it [competitions] and I miss hanging out with my friends and doing a lot of things that a person who has less intense hours would be able to do,” Lila said.

According to Eicher, so far working with Lila has been a great experience because she works hard to achieve her goals.

“I would say her biggest strength is probably her determination,” Eicher said.

This story was featured in the Volume 35, Issue 5 print edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on March 22, 2018.

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