Shelf Life

School spirit: March Madness 2008 may be a thing of the past, but the madness of men's college basketball is nothing, on or off the court, compared to the competitive world of college cheerleading. You doubt it? Don't. You laugh? Don't you dare. But do cheer on the University of Memphis All-Girl Tigers, national champions in 2004 and gunning for another win in Cheer! Three Teams on a Quest for College Cheerleading's Ultimate Prize (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) by Kate Torgovnick.

The cheerleading stunts Torgovnick describes would test the ability of any athlete; the injuries are commonplace; and the competition during the 2006-07 season that Torgovnick covers — from tryouts to finals — is fierce. But Torgovnick, through it all, stays focused: In addition to the All-Girl Tigers, watch as the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas (winner of four back-to-back National Championships) go for another win and observe as the Jaguars of Southern University in Baton Rouge (a team that beat the Lumberjacks — and rocked the competition — with their creative "stunting" and hip-shaking choreography in 2002) try for a "Cinderella" comeback.

Who won in the women's cheerleading Nationals in 2007? It'd be a crime to spoil it for readers, and, readers, here's your chance to give the All-Girl Tigers the respect they deserve and, more often than not, don't get. Nor do they get the budget and the scholarships and the TV airtime that the Memphis Coed cheerleaders do. But, people, do these young women ever give it their all. Kate Torgovnick does a terrific job giving them their due. 

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