Santa Maria - North County

Santa Maria cheer coach reacts to video of Denver girls forced to do splits

Santa Maria cheer coach reacts to...

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Five school officials in Denver are on administrative leave after a viral video showed cheerleaders being forced into splits over the summer. 

The parents of Ally Wakefield say their daughter showed them excruciating video depicting the cheer coach forcing her into a split.

The incident happened back in June. The high school freshman suffered from torn muscle tissue and a pulled hamstring and is receiving physical therapy.

The coach, principal and three other administrators are on leave. 

Here in Santa Maria, gymnast Cameron Edwards Rea hopes to make it to the Olympics in 2020.

Even for him, splits were difficult growing up. "It was definitely painful. There's a lot of trial and error that I had to go through definitely cause my back's not very flexible.. my splits are okay gymnastics wise," he explains. 

His coach Katey Eckenrode is the owner of KT's All Star Gymnastics in Santa Maria and is also a cheer coach at Orcutt Academy. 

She says this video of a 13 year old girl being forced into a split by her coach and teammates left her speechless, telling us: "Oh my god.. I just couldn't believe it.. I mean there are stretching techniques - that is not a stretching technique.

Eckenrode says her students start at various levels of flexibility so sometimes they may help the kids into stretches, but nothing ever like what happened in Denver.

"There's definitely other techniques you can use - but they have to put in the work also though because it can't just be the coach saying you know telling them you gotta stretch," she explains. 

Cameron says that's what worked for him, telling us: "I would really have to put in the work at home - like really stretching my straddles, the basics like pike, straddles, butterflies - those simple things lead up to the actual split." 

Eckenrode says she's always monitoring her students to make sure none of them train or compete while injured. 

For her, healthy kids are better than awards. "The safety of the kid's first. It's always first above performance - always - it has to be," Eckenrode says. 

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