GCHS cheerleaders prepare for return to state

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By Ryan Naus

The Grant County High School varsity cheerleaders hope that Valentine’s Day will be especially sweet for them.

The cheerleaders will perform at the KAPOS state competition on Feb. 14 and are looking for a top 10 finish to build on their performance at the region competition.

“We took a good look at the score sheet from region,” coach Leigh Simpson said. “I also let the girls come in and watch the routine as a cheerleader and asked what they saw we could fix and what they liked. We narrowed it down to three really important things.”

The girls believed that the best part of their routine was their round-off tucks, their voice and they really liked their beginning motions. They agreed they needed to work on the timing on their running tumbling, the dead time in the cheer and they had to fix their end stunt.

“We changed their running tumbling completely and fixed the timing,” Simpson said. “We added a standing tuck during the dead time and we cleaned the end stunt up. We didn’t make it any more difficult. It was difficult enough, but we cleaned it up. They realize they can do better.”

Along with the rest of the county, the snow and ice storm affected the cheerleaders’ practice routine, keeping them from practicing for five days.

“It was pretty tough,” Simpson said. “I’m not used to sitting at home on snow days. For me, snow days are a good opportunity to get a focused practice in. When you have that much snow and ice on the ground, you can’t risk putting anybody in jeopardy so you just accept it and take a day without practice and hope the girls are disciplined enough to condition at home and run through the routine mentally.”

“It was a delay, but we tried to play it safe so we didn’t get hurt,” Chelsey Popp said. “We prepared at home and at the gym. When we came back, we were ready to practice and get better.”

The cheerleaders have the chance to build on their performance at state last year, where the varsity finished 11th, and know what to expect from their experience last year.

“It’s an amazing feeling when you go out there and the whole spotlight is on you,” LaKeshia Crabtree said. “Going to state twice in a row means a lot because it’s my senior year and this year we have a good chance to get at least top 10. Top five would be nice. This year, we know what to do and what we need to do to get what we want. There are a few things we need to work. But we’re prepared. Last year, we were deer in headlights but we’re ready to go back.”

“It’s really an awesome feeling,” Popp said. “Last year has gotten us more prepared because you know what they’re expecting and what they’re looking for in order to get the place you want to get. I’m so excited because the first two years I was on varsity, we took second and third at region. The past two years, we’ve worked our butts off to get to state and to go to state as seniors is awesome. Everything is a blur once you get done performing. I want us to go out and do our best.”

“As a coach, I find state to be very intimidating and stressful,” Simpson said. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like as a cheerleader to walk into the arena and see that many cheerleaders from across the state. My biggest expectation is that my girls walk into that arena with as much confidence as they had when they walked into Shelby County (the site of the region competition) and give everything they have. My seniors get a second chance and they are hungry for that opportunity. It will be interesting to see how they use their experience as a motivator to do their best, to really shine.”