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By: Ally Schilmoeller, Reporter

The crowd surges, staring down at three rows of impeccably spaced girls. 30 sparkling bows perch atop 30 sleek, uniform ponytails. Bobbing up and down, a tingle of excitement spirals through their bodies. The large group of girls plaster a smile on their faces and in unison, start off the game with a carefully practiced cheer.

 

This year the cheerleading team expanded from 19 to 30 cheerleaders in hopes to incorporate even more girls. The rationale for this transition was to add depth to the team and share the camaraderie and lessons of cheer on a larger scale. One big team of girls now train as a whole and cheer together at games, but a select few girls also participate in competitions. In previous years one team took on both of these tasks.

 

Head coach Brooke Blythe is optimistic about the adjustment.
Blythe says she hopes the team will “Give more girls the opportunity to be on the team and give girls something to continue to work for.”
When returning cheerleaders caught news of the coming changes, many questions surfaced. After years of prepping a small and tight group, the sudden adjustment triggered doubts and some reluctance, but the girls soon realized the perks of adding more people to the sport they have come to love.

 

“I love having younger girls that get to learn what happens on cheer because then they can get friends that are younger to tryout for cheer and more people can see it’s lots of fun,” Senior Cheer Captain Sydney Dyer said.

 

At first, the incoming freshmen reacted to the news of being allowed to join the cheerleading squad with excitement. Yet when the text popped up announcing which team they would be joining in the fall, the large group of newcomers had mixed reactions.

 

“I was happy either way, whatever team I made, but I was really excited to make varsity,” freshman Anna Zingler said.

 

Zingler smiled and rallied her way through tryouts and successfully landed herself a spot on the competition team. As an incoming freshman, Zingler had no idea what to expect.

 

“[Cheer is] a lot harder, which I wasn’t really ready for, but as we got into regular practices after school, I’ve gotten used to it,” Zingler said.

 

Although the biggest number of freshman in Elkhorn South history made the competition team, it did not have enough spots to accommodate everyone. This year, freshman Ava Zimmerman did not quite make the cut for the competition team.

 

Hoping to add to the team with her experience of tumbling, Zimmerman said “I expected to make the top team because most people don’t have tumbling that are on the top team.”

 

Disappointed about not having the opportunity to compete this year, Zimmerman now focuses on the positives and has high hopes for her future career of cheering in high school.

 

“I think later on it’ll [being on the gameday squad] help you kind of have a voice because they [coaches and captains] do ask for your opinion,” Zimmerman said.

 

For coaches and cheerleaders alike, this year will be tough and full of adjustments.

 

“We have faced many decisions this year that we have not been faced with before. We have new girls, a new coach, a coach that only has one year experience, and then me out having a baby,” Blythe said.

 

With a competition team and a game day team, equality is hard to achieve. All of the girls train together, but some girls don’t feel as included when they have to sit out from the competition routine.

 

“Sometimes coaches focus more on the competition team because they think they are more important, and sometimes they are for competitions, but they [the coaches] put them [the competition girls] at a higher level,” Zimmerman said.

 

A point that newcomers such as Zingler and Zimmerman agree on is the workload. From the outside, they had no idea what to expect. Rigorous summer practices and training whipped the girls into shape. Girls attended weight training over break, and during weekly practices they run laps accompanied by thirty minutes of intense conditioning.

 

“It’s a little harder than I expected because I thought it was just cheering but there is also conditioning and a lot of other things,” Zimmerman said.

 

This year captains, Dyer and seniors Bailee Urban, Raven Diers, and Lily Fortner must shoulder a bigger workload as they boldly lead the cheerleaders, organize schedules, and inspire underclassmen. To incoming freshman, Dyer is a positive influence.

 

“She is so happy all the time even though things can stress her out,” Zimmerman said about Dyers.

 

Cheerleaders practice every week and stay on their toes as they balance school, cheer, and their home life. They work hard to represent Elkhorn South, but it all pays off in the end.

 

“[Cheer] just makes me learn how to be organized and be very good at time management, because we are pretty busy,” Dyer said.

 

Adding a second team has turned out to be a success. In the end, having so many girls united around the love of cheer is worth every second of drama and hard work. The cheerleading season has just begun, but already the talent and work ethic of this years squad shines brightly.

 

“This year there is so much potential on this team that everyone stands out in their own way,” Dyer said. “We have lots of girls that have [been] tumbling, many are very good at dancing and motions, and we have a lot more people that can be loud!”

 

 

Photos by Megan Swartzbaugh