KCC Cheer Team builds positive program
By Anna Jauhola
For the last two years, a group of girls in Lancaster have worked to create a sideline cheerleader program. The KCC Cheer Team has been at each high school Bearcats football game during that time, creating enthusiasm within the crowds. This school year, the team joined Varsity Cheer, the largest high school cheer organization, and was invited to a statewide clinic in Minneapolis last weekend.
The 10-person cheer team received a video on Sunday, Nov. 24 with the routines they’d practice during the clinic and perform at the game. Rice said the girls practiced Sunday and Monday, and asked for a practice session on Tuesday.
“So, we came in at 7 a.m. and I was really impressed with how much they had learned on their own,” Rice said. “It shows such dedication from them and pride.”
They were ready to go to the four-hour clinic on Sunday, Dec. 1 and cheer at the Timberwolves game that afternoon, but the weather was too severe for travel, Rice said in an email to the Enterprise. However, they will be rescheduled to attend later in the season.
The 2018-19 football season was the first time Lancaster had a cheer team for about a decade. When Rice and her family moved to Lancaster, Rice’s daughter wanted to start up a cheer team to continue the activity she loved in California.
“Last year was a little rocky,” Rice said. “Initially we started as a club because nobody knew what the interest would be.”
Of those who participated last year, seven returned and three new members joined the squad to make it an even 10. The team is an official activity through the school but is supported through fundraising. The girls each paid for their own uniforms and then did as much fundraising as possible, including two dunk tanks last summer, car washes, selling bracelets and holding babysitting nights. And, Rice is a voluntary coach.
“I’ve told them if they show up, I’ll show up,” Rice said. “These kids are dedicated.”
Throughout developing the squad, Rice has worked hard to schedule practices around other athletic and activity practices. Since the beginning, because the cheer team does not compete, Rice has never wanted to take kids away from their competitive activities.
“We really want to make sure people know they can do sports, and because that’s competitive, that’s what takes priority. Cheer is secondary,” Rice said. “That’s how we’ve made it work.”
Although the squad is considered a sideline cheer line for football only, the activity also brings about numerous opportunities – academic, athletic and personal. Cheer captains Mariah Olson and Rachel Schmiedeberg have been accepted to USA Cheer Camp in Hawaii in 2020. Rice said her nomination letters had to include why they were good candidates, their school transcripts with GPAs, extracurricular activities at school and in the community.
Olson, the senior captain on the team, said of all her activities, she’s found the most enjoyment through the cheer team.
“It has been something really amazing for me, just bonding with my team and I found something I really enjoy,” she said. “I think the energy and positivity is really overwhelming and awesome.”
In addition, Olson has been accepted to North Dakota State University and is training to audition for the Bison Cheer Team. She has also been nominated for an athletic scholarship based on her cheer team experience.
“If she makes it, she will have the opportunity to travel all over the U.S.,” Rice said. “The opportunities are pretty amazing. There are huge opportunities coming out of this little squad that we just didn’t know whether it would take off.”
The last two years have given the whole team the experience of auditioning for their roles on the cheer team as well. Rice was adamant that the organization not be mediocre, but done right, especially for the role of captain. Five girls auditioned to be captain and Rice chose two – Olson and Schmiedeberg. Each girl wrote an essay on what it means to be captain and why they’d do well in the position.
They stood in front of a panel of judges and answered on-the-spot questions about leadership. Then, each led a sideline cheer, a chant and a cheer dance (also called a pom).
“I thought it was really important that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it right,” Rice said. “I’ve pushed them and made them audition, come in early, come in late. And they rise to the occasion every time.”
Olson said she believes Rice’s drive to create a great cheer team really drove each girl to be better this year, work cohesively as a team and have a much better attitude.
“We felt like a real cheer team and made the community feel like we were a real cheer team,” Olson said.
The group sat down at the end of the season to reflect on what being on the cheer team has meant to them. Rice said they all appreciated the increased community support they received this year. But more importantly, the girls felt they made friends with classmates they had grown up with but never really hung out with before.
“They have developed relationships with kids that they didn’t before because the cheer team is composed of a wide variety of kids – athletes, nonsports kids, kids who have never been in an activity,” Rice said. “It’s nice to see it’s giving every kid – not just athletes – a way to represent the school.”
She added that although the team had a rocky start, it’s turned into a really healthy, positive thing for Lancaster School.
“I told them, ‘You guys are trailblazers. Kids five years down the road are going to thank you because we’re not all athletes,’” Rice said. “It’s been really cool and I’m excited to see it grow.”