With the abdominal muscles of a Spartan warrior, the athleticism of a gymnast and a strange fiberglass boneyard indicative of a daring professional skateboarder, 12-year-old Oakdale Junior High student Savannah Manning may be the Cowboy Capital of the World’s best young athlete.
Not bad for a cheerleader.
Manning is responsible for a bewildering tale of intense training that propelled her to a high-flying position with one of the nation’s top cheer programs and culminated with a dazzling international honor.
The youngest member of the Livermore-based California All Stars Black Ops joined 29 others for a two-day performance that awarded the program a United States All Star Federation Cheerleading World Championship in Orlando, Florida on April 29.
Manning brought home Northern California’s first ever gold medal from the event that features top competition from all over the world and included stiff opposition from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, China, Australia, New Zealand and Canada this year.
It’s a tremendous feat made possible by the tireless execution of California All Stars routines perfected by nearly a full year of strenuous training. Athletes undergo vigorous weight-room workouts and participate on a strict conditioning regimen of stretching and running. The program hosts practice three days a week during the competition, picks up to daily workouts in-between weekend competition and has a break of only two weeks each year.
It better resembles Olympic training than it does the stereotype of non-competitive cheer.
“Competitive cheer is a sport because like other sports, we compete for a title and we are putting a lot of athletic ability into what we are doing,” Manning said. “It takes a lot of work and a lot of teamwork.”
As a flyer, the evidence of this work has left Manning with some tremendous battle scars. She’s broken both her wrists, her elbow twice, shattered her ankle and broken her foot. The casts from these injuries are assembled in her bedroom for what her family considers the fiberglass boneyard.
Savannah is a valued repeat-consumer for local cast-tagging artists.
“We bring her back to school after these weekend practices and we are always sweating that people will call (child protective services) because of her fat-lips and bruises,” Savannah’s father, Tom Manning, said with a laugh. “The pediatric orthopedist at Stanford knows us by name.”
The injuries haven’t kept Manning from a cheer career she started at age five after witnessing the exploits of her older sister, Oakdale High graduate and former Mustang cheerleader, Madison Manning.
They also haven’t hindered the fit physique that makes her a standout in any setting.
“I did 40 pushups in a minute to beat all the boys in my (physical education class),” Manning boasted with a grin.
Not bad for a cheerleader.