Fire and Gold in Their Eyes

Cheerleaders place seventh on the national level

Gabby Giesler, Editor-in-Chief

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Make it out of prelims: that’s all they wanted to do. This month, however, the Skutt Catholic Cheerleading Squad did more than that; they progressed to finals and placed seventh in the nation in the Medium Varsity Game Day division at the National High School Cheerleading Championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.

“Having never competed in the Game Day category, we didn’t really know what to expect,” said senior Emily Newcomer. “It’s our third year competing at the national level so to do anything outside of preliminary qualifications was going to be big for us.”

The Game Day category consists of a sideline cheer, chant, and band dance. The goal of this category is to show the judges which teams could really get their student sections pumped up at a football or basketball game. Crowd effectiveness, cleanliness, difficulty of stunts and all-around presentation are factored in to deciding the finalists.

“I love actual game days,” said senior Cora Scoville. “The squad is always so happy and excited to cheer, and our performance really goes up when we are cheering for a hyped up game. This category was perfect for us to compete in because our school has such a strong background of spirit, especially at football games. The smiles and pep are all genuine.”

It’s not easy to advance to finals at this level of competition though, and the SkyHawk Cheerleading Squad lacked the experience of many big-time programs that have been attending Cheer Nationals for years.

The girls had set a modest goal for themselves of no deductions (for errors) in finals. “All of the girls worked very hard and it showed at nationals when the score sheet only had one deduction the first round and none the second,” said coach Apryl Barajas. “Yes, there will always be things to work on, but the team worked vigorously and put it all out on the floor.”

Coach Kelsey Gazda, a 2008 Skutt Catholic Cheer alumna, was impressed with the growth of this year’s squad, which set it apart from other years. “The squad has grown a lot since the beginning of the season and has fought through injuries and other setbacks,” said Gazda. “Overcoming those challenges and competing so well at the national level is a great accomplishment. I couldn’t be prouder of this squad.”

While the trip was mostly business, there still was time for fun. The cheerleaders enjoyed a day at Disney World as well as a late night riding the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. While the Florida weather wasn’t exactly sunny and 75, nevertheless the cheerleaders had a well-deserved break from reality and more importantly, proved themselves as the best SkyHawk Cheer Squad ever at Nationals.

“I was so excited when the team made it to finals,” said coach Mrs. Beckie Rago. “All three of us coaches, we almost couldn’t believe it at first. The goal for the past year was to advance and they worked so hard to make that happen. I was proud, excited, and overwhelmed all at the same time, and it truly is a moment I will not forget.”

A seventh place finish for cheer makes this year one of the most successful yet. Being one of just two teams from Nebraska, the SkyHawks made a name for themselves among top-ranked national competitions, and laid the groundwork for squads to come.