Sweet Home second in state cheer competition

The Huskies finished second in the state cheerleading championships Saturday among eight teams in the 4A/5A large division, and the Sweet Home Junior High cheerleaders finished first in the state.

“The girls just did a phenomenal job,” said Coach Crystal Kimball. “Honestly, I can say our cheerleaders are one of the absolute best teams in the state.”

Ten teams among all divisions scored as well or better than the Huskies; and with 60 points, the Huskies scored as well as the top team in the 6A large division, Clackamas High School.

The top three teams in the 4A/5A large division were 4A schools, Kimball said. Pleasant Hill finished first at 63 points, and Brookings Harbor finished third with 57.75 points.

“It was a nail-biter,” Kimball said. The teams were close, but there was a lot going on in the score sheets.

Brookings Harbor had a smooth performance without any missteps, but the routine was less difficult than Sweet Home’s or Pleasant Hill’s, which can drive down scoring.

During the season, Kimball said, she was constantly changing the routine, based on judges’ comments, to make the routine more difficult and to squeeze more points out of the score sheets.

“Our routine is nothing like it was at the beginning of the season,” Kimball said. The team moved from 50 points in the first competition to 63 in its sixth and final regular season performance. The Huskies placed first a couple of times and second a couple of times, with Pleasant Hill, the Huskies and Brookings Harbor generally in contention for the top spots.

“The girls did phenomenally,” she said. They are veterans, many of them competing for four years, and this was the hardest routine they’ve ever done.

The routine had more tumbling, she said, and it included tumbling while other parts of the team were setting up stunts and continuing choreographed dance routines.

Last year, the judges wanted to see the whole team tumbling, Kimball said. Now each aspect, such as tumbling, stunting and dance choreography, has its own judge. That means a team has to keep all three judges busy during the routine, mixing all of the aspects into each part of the overall performance.

“Every part of my routine, I wanted them all busy,” Kimball said. “So they think, wow, this is packed, packed with goodies.”

She expects to see performances shift away from the slower high school style to that flashier all-star style, and she thinks that is what made the difference for Pleasant Hill and Sweet Home.

“It takes every single person,” she said, and the team has to fight all season to make sure everyone is healthy.

This is Kimball’s last year as coach, but she is satisfied with the second-place trophy, she said. “They would’ve loved to give me the championship my last year.”

Still, Kimball said, she can’t imagine losing to a better team than Pleasant Hill, with whose coach she has become fast friends. Pleasant Hill also returned all but one cheerleader from last year’s championship team.

“I knew they were going to be tough,” Kimball said.

Taylor Thorpe placed second on the all-state team. Girls compete individually for the honor. With it comes a $500 scholarship.

Several girls have won positions on the team in the past four years. They automatically win a place on the cheerleading squads at the annual East-West Shrine Bowl.

At the junior high level, Sweet Home’s nearest competition was six points behind, Kimball said. That’s a big range between first and second.

“My junior high team is really good this year,” she said. “They took it to a whole other level.”

Last year, the team placed first at state, and the year before that it placed second.

“I had a really good time coaching,” Kimball said as she prepares to depart her coaching position. “I had really great kids, great parents and good administrators. I’m going to miss it.”

Cheerleaders performing at state included seniors Jessica Fagan, Jessica Smith, Emily Steinbacher, Leah Dauley, Abbie Rice, Leah Keesecker, Stephanie Szuch; juniors Haley Voldbaek and Courtnee King; sophomores Desiree McCormick, Kellie Pollock, Karlie McCubbins, Kendra Whaley, Jordyn Price and Laura Mauer; and freshmen Lindsey Martin, Hailey Hummer, Taylor Thorpe, Monica Medina and Mariah Morneault.