The Cabarrus Senior Games Rockers have won several second- and third-place medals at the state Senior Games in the past six years, but they've yet to capture the gold.
This year, they think they have a secret weapon.
It's Becky Thompson's silver, white-tipped baton.
On Thursday, the Rockers will find just how far that baton can carry them in competition at the annual state Senior Games.
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The Rockers - head cheerleader and coach Ilene Smith, Thompson, Susan Eastwood and Nettie Wills - will perform in the Small Group Division, for teams with four or fewer cheerleaders.
Three other teams from across the state will compete. A trip to the national Senior Games in Houston in June is on the line.
Help from Spiders
The Rockers originated six years ago when the Cabarrus County Department of Aging and the Concord High School cheerleaders joined forces to provide a cheerleading workshop for area senior adults.
Over the course of several months, the Spiders conducted monthly clinics for a handful of women. Smith was one of them.
"We told them we can't do all those things you can do, like jumps and flips," said Smith, 67. "But if you give the seniors an idea, it just explodes."
There were eight original Rockers, but the lineup has changed regularly over the years. Eastwood, the only one of the current four with cheerleading experience, joined the squad a couple of years ago.
"I was one of three cheerleaders on the high school team ... in Indiana," said Eastwood, 66. "I was the one in the middle that did the cartwheels. We cheered for the basketball and football teams."
Wills is the most recent addition. Having participated in aerobics at the Cabarrus County Senior Center for the past eight years, Wills heard from a center employee that the Rockers were recruiting cheerleaders.
"The aerobics let me do a lot of things," said Willis, 70. "Without it I would be a lot more (short)-winded. I can do just about anything Ilene throws at me."
A good first step
Thompson said she has been twirling her baton off and on since her aunt taught her the skill at age 6. Shortly after the Rockers finished third at the 2009 state games, Smith asked her to join.
"I always, always, always, always wanted to be a majorette" growing up, said Thompson, 66. "I never wanted to be a cheerleader."
Dressed in their black uniforms with gold trim and shaking their matching pom-poms, the current Rockers lineup performed for the first time at the Senior Follies show at Mount Pleasant High in April. In a small surprise to her teammates, Wills missed a step on stage and reacted with a little light-hearted angst.
"Come on guys, give me a break, this is my first time," Wills pleaded as the performance continued.
The audience thought it was part of the routine and loved it.
A secret weapon
Through the summer, the Rockers practiced once a month. But in the few weeks before the Senior Games, they've stepped up rehearsals to twice a week.
Smith, who said she would love to continue coaching the group without having to cheer, is also the squad's choreographer. This year's routine is more than 3 minutes long and features an opening chant, a dance number, another chant, then a closing dance to the rock 'n' roll song "Great Balls of Fire."
At the forefront will be Thompson and her baton. It's an added feature Smith says most teams do not have at the Senior Games.
Teams are judged on costume, routine/presentation, showmanship/enthusiasm and technique.
If Thompson's twirling is not enough to wow the judges, the Rockers may have another ace in the hole.
Wills said she has her own special talent.
"Shakin' it," she boasted.