Cheer squad sets sights on another state title

Coming off a 4A state championship in which the Huskies blew away the competition, cheerleading coach Crystal Kimball has her team focused on another trip to state, despite some bumps in the road.

The Huskies have 20 girls on the squad, but two late departures from the team have left them scrambling as the competition season gets under way.

The team, which is set to open its season on Saturday, Jan. 12, at West Albany, is still rebuilding after the loss of Briana Santana and Brittany Anundi, Kimball said.

“We’ve had to backpedal a little bit,” she said. “We had known our routines since October and had it all done, then we had this hit.”

The good news for the Huskies is that many team members have taken gymnastics lessons that are expected to translate into more success for the cheer squad.

“Last year we had four tumblers. This year, over half the team tumbles,” said Kimball, in her third year of coaching the team.

Kimball said the Huskies are facing somewhat unpredictable competition this season as many of their former opponents are now in 5A and some 4A schools, such as Molalla, Junction City and Gladstone, appear to be planning to field small teams, which usually compete in a separate division.

She said if not enough schools field large teams of 10 or more cheerleaders, the state championship competition could include both large and small squads, which puts small teams at a disadvantage simply because they tend to be able to trigger less visual and emotional impact than larger squads.

“It’s hard for a school with 10 girls to compete with a large team of girls right now,” she said.

The Huskies are led by senior captains Chelsea Gregory and Amber Horner.

The team also includes: senior Jamie Burcham; juniors Larisa Cole, McKenna Burnett, Ella Butler, Kaci Pettit, Danyelle Peterman, Alyssa Logan, Paige Bracher, Bethany Babcock, Conna Erickson, Lea Rassmusen and Tanesia McDowell; sophomores Leah Keesecker, Abbie Rice, Leah Dauley, Emily Coonrad and Jessica Smith; and freshman Haley Voldbaek.

Kimball said she has also started a junior high-aged team of 11 girls, all students at Sweet Home Junior High, though they don’t compete as a school team.