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Behind the mats: a look into the cheer team

They lift, toss, tumble, and cheer. Not just as sideline support, but as a team who endured the struggles and success to reach the top. HR’s varsity cheer team placed ninth in the state competition at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs on March 26, 2021. But as the competition got pushed back, it also pushed the team’s motivation away.

The cheer team in games. Photo courtesy of Abby Colburn

To start the season, there was uncertainty as to whether or not they had a competition, and it frustrated them whenever a competition gets pushed back. “It was hard to stay motivated, like why are we practicing if we are not going to compete,” said Abby Colburn, senior.

The push back also challenged the coaches. “It was an even greater challenge to keep the team motivated when we had no idea if we would even get a season to showcase their talent,” said Cierra Cover, coach.

They struggled to move forward as the team got used to preparing routines for each competition. But even when competitions got pushed back, it never stopped them from their drive. “It is hard to keep an eye on the prize when it keeps being taken away from you,” said Deven Flagg, junior.

“Usually, our season is long, but this year it was way longer. At the beginning of the year, we didn’t even know if we were going to compete. But when we got the confirmation that we were going to compete, it was easier to keep motivated because we were working for something,” said Colburn.

Repetition is the key to perfecting a routine. Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and sometimes Friday, the cheer team practices their routine with lots of workouts and tumblings for 8 hours a week to prepare for competitions.

This year routine had more difficulty than the previous years. “It challenged the team’s endurance, strength and overall physical abilities,” said Cierra Cover, coach. But they went through it all because of their love for the team and the sport.

“This sport requires extreme mental toughness and physical strength. If either of those gives out or waivers with any of the athletes, someone is likely to get hurt,” said Cover.

To start a day of practice, the team rolls on mats for 10 minutes, stretches their muscles, practices their jumps, and discusses their plans for the practice. Once the team finished their warm-ups, they start running the full routine. Then they cool down and fix the mats before practice ends.

Every member of the team has to abide by the rules. Phones, jewelry, and long fingernails are not allowed. Hair has to be pulled back, and most importantly, not missing practices.

During practice, everyone has to keep a good attitude to relieve pressure from the routine. “It makes it hard to work together and have good results when you’re all angry and frustrated with each other,” said Flagg.

The Cheer team during practice. Photo courtesy of Abby Colburn

March was competition month for the team, and their main competition this season was at state. Before the competing, the state competition first got postponed in December, then pushed back to March. While it gives more time to prepare, it can be more taxing on the body.

“This sport requires extreme mental toughness and physical strength. If either of those gives out or waivers with any of the athletes, someone is likely to get hurt”

Cierra Cover

Since the season was longer than expected, some of the members dealt with injuries. “We had numerous injuries (some season ending) and unforeseen moves that caused us to pull up alternates to compete, change some roles, and teach new skills in a very short amount of time,” said Cover.

Colburn is a secondary base for the team, and she experienced some back pain issues during the season. “It was kind of a pain. When I would stunt, it would hurt a little bit, and when I’m home, I get sore,” said Colburn.

“It was pretty equal throughout the team,” said Flagg. Flagg is a flyer for the team, and she injured her ankle during practice. Every time Flagg had to toss herself in stunts, her body physically stops her from doing it.

Pushing through the injuries was difficult. Yet, the team relied on each other to overcome them. “They really excelled by encouraging each other on individual trials. If someone was hurt or tired or frustrated, the team’s encouragement pushed them through to the finish,” said Cover. 

“Encouragement was the good thing for us. It’s our strength. We are here for everyone, not just for ourselves. If I’m injured, so is the person beside me. I’m doing it not only for me but for them,” said Colburn.

The week of state, the team had practice on Monday and Tuesday morning and a showcase on Wednesday night for all parents and guests. Then Thursday after school, they headed to the Broadmoor.

Before the competition, everyone was getting nervous and frustrated. “I personally got anxious because nothing was hitting, like what are we going to do?” said Flagg. Despite that, it didn’t stop them from performing at their best.

Everybody was excited as they entered the mats, and their confidence made a way for their success. The team finished off the season with a clean routine. They hit all their back tucks and cartwheels, and the tumblers cleanly landed their aerials during the tumbling passes. The flyers were stable, and no one fell from above.

After all the success and struggles they endured this season, the team placed ninth out of 50 at state. “It was the best we ever felt. We were all laughing, hugging, screaming,” said Flagg. And although they did not reach the finals, the team has reached the highest rank cheer has gotten for over 10 years for Ranch.

Cover said, “Although we were extremely disappointed to not make it through to finals this year, the team’s preliminary performance was the best one they have done all year! We were so proud of what we left on the mat, it was still a good way to end the season.”

Francine Palmos, Staff reporter

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Behind the mats: a look into the cheer team