Cheer squad tops in state

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Sweet Home High School cheerleaders are the best in the state.

The Huskies won the state championship in their division Saturday at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland. It’s the team’s first state championship and the girls believed the first team championship for the school in the last half dozen years.

“I’m beyond ecstatic,” Coach Crystal Kimball said, who led the team to a third-place finish last year, her first with the team. “The girls have been working since May.”

Cheer squad members have been enrolled in gymnastic classes with Tiffany Makin at Steelhead Strength and Fitness, she said, and all that hard work paid off.

They have dominated their pre-state competitions, Kimball said.

Their routine, which included a triple scorpion, had only one flaw, she said. One of the girls tripped on a bit of Velcro used to attach the performance mats.

“Everything else was absolutely perfect,” she said. The team was loud and precise, using all of the strength and flexibility they’ve built up over the past year.

Sweet Home’s score of 79.4 was highest in any of the 1A through 4A division competitions and it would have placed the Huskies third in the 5A or 6A, including the co-ed division, as well.

Sweet Home is not well known in cheerleading circles and Kimball said, so many at the state championships weren’t familiar with the Huskies.

“‘A lot of people said ‘Sweet Home?’ This is only our second year competing,” she said. “To take a state championship in the second year is just crazy.”

“It was amazing,” said Stefani Crocker, one of the team’s four captains. “It felt good to have all our work pay off.”

The team “worked all summer long,” Captain Schae Pettner said. “Just working so hard just built up the confidence,” and it helped the team through its performance.

“We have never doubted each other or ourselves,” Captain Megan Day said. Each team member pushed the others.

The adrenaline from performing at state kept the team’s nerves in check, Crocker said. The team also used a lot of “mat talk,” when they “stuck a stunt,” meaning nailing it, they scream, “yeah!”

They were pretty sure they had the win when they walked off the mat.

“When you walk off the mat, you just know,” Pettner said. “It was stressful when they were calling the awards.”

The performance wasn’t perfect, Pettner said, but “It was probably our cleanest,” Captain Kristi Ward said.

They are excited about nationals and it expect it to be “a lot less pressure,” Crocker said.

They are mostly looking forward to the experience and just being able to say they made it, Ward said.

“We really appreciate our coach and everybody throughout the town that supported us,” Day said.

“We had a huge cheering section,” Crocker said. They couldn’t have done it without their coach and the community support.

The team is composed of Brittany Anundi, Larissa Cole, Stefani Crocker, Megan Day, Chelsea Gregory, Amber Horner, Leah Keesecker, Olivia Lake, Danyelle Peterman, Kaci Pettit, Schae Pettner, Abbie Rice, Frankie Tagle, Kristi Ward and Zuri VanCleave.

The team now qualifies to attend a national competition at the Los Angeles Convention Center on March 31 and April 1, Kimball said. That event will be broadcast by ESPN.

Over the next month, team members will be running fund-raising events to help get them to the competition. Kimball said about $7,000 will be needed to make the trip.

To help out or for more information, contact Kimball at 905-3874.