Cheerleaders confident with chances

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

To listen to Coach Crystal Kimball and her high school cheerleading squad, this year may be the best ever for Sweet Home High School. They’ve got their sights set high this year.

Last year, the team had a goal to reach third place. They did it. This year, they want to achieve at least second, but they think they can do even better.

The cheerleaders start their competitive season on Jan. 6 at Clackamas High School. They will compete every weekend through Feb. 10 when they travel to the Memorial Coliseum in Portland for the state competition.

They will compete at the new 4A level and move from the small squad to the large squad division, “which is a lot tougher,” Kimball said. “You see a lot more tumbling and stunts.”

The competition is tougher, but the cheerleaders are too, she said. “We’ve also got a gymnastics coach at Steelhead gym.”

The cheerleaders recently went to an all-state event and saw most of their competition, she said, and they have a good idea what they will see at state.

The cheerleading squad has 23 members, but only 16 can compete in the 4A large division.

“I have 15 going to state on my competition team,” Kimball said. “The girls I chose to go to state are the ones showing they want to compete. It takes extra practices and (enrollment in the tumbling academy.)”

The girls are learning to do backhand springs, and they can complete three scorpions simultaneously, Kimball said. The scorpion includes four girls holding another up by one leg. The girl in the air takes a specific pose. Most schools can do one maximum.

“The girls, their flexibility and level of fitness is so much further ahead of last year,” Kimball said. Adding gymnastics to their routines has helped tremendously.

Kimball’s enthusiasm is shared by the girls. They don’t want to be cocky, but they are confident and enjoy talking it up and having fun.

“The girls want a banner hanging in the gym,” Kimball said. “They’re not going to stop until they get it.”

In competitions, “they judge you on tumbling, your jumps, a cheer and dance routines,” Kimball said. Judges also look at showmanship, interaction with the crowd and how cleanly the routine is performed.

In the past failed routines did not result in loss of points, Kimball said. This year it does. A lot of the competition would try difficult routines and end up dropping it at little risk in terms of points.

“It’s going to help eliminate a lot of teams that aren’t really prepared,” she said, while her team does have the skills to pull off these stunts.

Team captain Schae Pettner said the team is strong, “definitely in tumbling and our stunts.”

And they’re getting a boost from their youngest members.

“I think the freshmen really stepped up this year,” captain Kristi Ward said.

Their strength is their confidence, Kimball said. They know what to expect and what they need to do when they get to state.

“If there’s one thing I could say about this team, they have a lot of heart,” Kimball said. They’re friends and never have big fights among themselves.

The competition team includes team captains Schae Pettner, Kristi Ward, Stefani Crocker and Megan Day and team members Zuri VanCleave, Frankie Tagle, Olivia Lake, Chelsea Gregory, Danny Peterman, Larisa Cole, Amber Horner, Kaci Pettit, Abbi Rice, Leah Keesecker and Brittany Anundi.

The basketball cheerleading team also includes Paige Bracher, Ella Butler, Leah Rasmussen, Leah Dauley and Jacque Dix.