Cheer squad opens season with high goals

The Sweet Home High School cheerleaders are young overall, but Coach Crystal Kimball believes they are further along at this point in the season than in previous years.

The competition team has seven seniors, including Jessica Fagan, Jessica Smith, Emily Steinbacher, Leah Dauley, Abbie Rice, Leah Keesecker and Stephanie Szuch. Keesecker, Rice and Dauley are in their fourth year of varsity cheerleading.

Captains are Keesecker, Rice, Dauley and Steinbacher.

Juniors Haley Voldbaek and Courtnee King are joined by sophomores Desiree McCormick, Kellie Pollock, Karlie McCubbins,

Kendra Whaley, Jordyn Price and Laura Mauer. Freshmen include Lindsey Martin, Hailey Hummer, Taylor Thorpe, Monica Medina and Mariah Morneault.

The sophomores and freshmen are capable cheerleaders, said Kimball, who has been coaching the junior high team for the past two years.

The junior high team is beginning its third year, functioning as a sort of freshman-JV team, Kimball said. The junior high squad, which won the state title last year, attends all of the competitions with the high school team, Kimball said, and it always competes against Portland schools.

“My freshmen have come in totally ready,” she said.

The team’s choreographer, Suzie Stavas of Albany, visited during Christmas break, Kimball said, and told Kimball the Huskies haven’t ever been this far along.

Usually, one or two groups are doing more advanced stunts, Kimball said, while the rest of the team is starting out with cradles. This year, they’re working on spinning out of stunts already.

The same applies to the sophomores, who are the first junior high cheerleaders to move onto the high school team, Kimball said.

Pleasant Hill will be Sweet Home’s toughest competition this year, Kimball said. The Huskies won in 2007 and then tied Pleasant Hill in 2008. Last year, Pleasant Hill edged out the Huskies.

Pleasant Hill lost one senior last year and returns a nearly intact squad with 16 seniors.

Kimball is optimistic about her team’s chances, she said. A number of variables affect performance and judging at any given competition. The Huskies were “very close” last year, and state could easily go their way this year.

“My girls are working hard,” she said. “They look good. It’s anybody’s game.”

Although ahead of the game, the Huskies aren’t resting.

“We always push the level of difficulty,” she said.

One variable that could make the competition much more difficult is if the number of 5A schools competing in the large division drop to small division. The 4A and 5A large divisions were combined last year because 4A didn’t have enough competitors. If the trend continues, those combined divisions may be too small, and 6A large teams may be added.

The Huskies can compete with almost any 5A or 6A team, Kimball said, but 6A has Westview High School from Portland. That makes second place the best likely finish for the Huskies. That division also has a couple of other teams that worry Kimball.

The Huskies kick off their season Saturday at Lake Oswego. On Jan. 16, they travel to Springfield High School. On Jan. 30, they compete at the Eugene Classic. On Feb. 6, they travel to the Salem Pavilion at the State Fairgrounds.

The state competition will be held on Feb. 13 at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

Kimball said this will be her last year coaching, “so it’s kind of a special year.”

She will resign so she can spend time with her sons, who are in the fifth and sixth grades and involved in sports.

That only happens once, she said, adding that she can always get involved in cheerleading again later.