The South Park High School cheerleading squad reached out to the community’s youth to work and expand interest in the sport of cheerleading for the annual Mini Burros Cheer Camp Feb. 2.
“There is so much more to cheerleading than just cheering at games, competing at competitions, and wearing a uniform. Like any sport, its athletes learn commitment, responsibilities, and life lessons,” head coach Kathy Davis-Peter said.
Twenty-eight Mini Burros ranging from pre-k through sixth grade attended a four-hour clinic to learn the basic techniques and fundamentals of the sport of cheerleading, which included safety, cheerleading stunts, jumps, cheers, and most of all, fun, to prepare them for their performance during the boys’ varsity halftime show that evening.
“I feel it’s important to teach our youth the fundamentals of any sport. You want them to understand it’s more than just standing on the sidelines cheering your team to victory, but about trust, friendships, dedication, responsibilities, athleticism, and most of all memories. This is the future of South Park High School cheerleading and these are the things that help shape a youth into a great adult,” Peter said.
In front of a full house, the Mini Burros, accompanied by all 13 of the varsity cheerleaders, were prepared with three cheers, a dance, and six stunning four-cheerleader stunt clusters that left the large home crowd on their feet and cheering for more.
“I would say that our high school squad has worked hard to create a positive, ‘we are athletes’ image. They wanted to be taken seriously as athletes, and they knew in order for that to happen, they had to become a cheerleader.
“I have told them, if you want to be respected as athletes, then become an athlete. That is just what they did. After the great turnout we had at the mini-cheer camp this weekend, that tells me the younger kids are interested and excited about the program.
“The skills we demonstrate at games are exciting and fun, and that is today’s cheerleading. My hope is that the young girls that were there at camp will continue with cheer and keep the spirit growing at South Park High,” Peter said.
Of course, the clinic was not all work. The high school cheerleaders also offered an assortment of games and rallying during their favorite community-service project of the year.
The high school squad is made up of four returning seniors (Captain Emma Braggins, Co-captain Lauren Dunn, Stevi Arellano and Raquel Rothrock), two returning juniors (Mary Kelley and Jessica Meyers), and two returning sophomores (Abby Elliot and Courtney Shifflett).
“[Our returning cheerleaders have] most definitely demonstrated the leadership skills needed to guide the squad,” Peter said.
“Emma is a four-year cheerleader and has a high level of leadership and understanding; not only of cheer, but does what is expected and needed with South Park cheer and the crazy schedules they can have by participating in all sports. Stevi missed a year, but didn’t miss a beat with the level of respect she had from her teammates.”
Expanding the squad to its peak, five newbies (sophomores Brenna Arends, Anahi Hernandez and Adam Susic, and freshmen Mollie Morrow and Mikayla Batts) joined during the postseason of the 2018 school year.
“I am absolutely optimistic of the future of this program. These young ladies and gent has been a huge asset to the squad. They stepped up at camp, caught on quickly and never gave up,” Peter said.
The South Park High School cheerleading squad works nearly year-round to heighten school spirit and develop their skills. Starting with summer work, the squad began their work in twice-a-week open-gym secessions in June and through July.
“We did the weight room, running, skill (stunt) training and learning all the cheers,” Peter said.
In addition, the squad attended a cheer camp in June to focus their attentions on all skills and safety, jumps, and dances, which they have continued to use throughout the season.
“Each cheerleader had a strong understanding of cheer; however, we were able to learn new techniques and skills that most of them didn’t know. Camp is extremely important, because it is a way to keep up with current skills, teach safety, and build a trusting bond. This squad has gone through lots of hard work, sweat and tears, but most importantly there was and still is lots of fun to be had,” Peter said.
The Colorado High School Activities Association official cheerleading season began on Aug. 6, which the Burros kicked off with excitement.
“Cheerleading is sanctioned as an official sport through CHSAA; therefore, it is similar to that of football, volleyball and other sports, where the same requirements are to be met. We held practices every day for two hours. All of this was preparing for games, halftime routines and competition,” Peter said.
While Kathy is a first-year head coach at South Park High School, her knowledge of the sport extends to her youth.
“My career starts at a young age. I grew up in southwest Oklahoma, where Friday night lights were life. I had brothers play football, so we were always at games and like any young girl, I fell in love with cheer,” Peter said.
Spotlighting her high school career as a pom and dance girl, Kathy was named NCA Superstar and was able to perform at the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii her senior year. She then put her poms away and cheered from the stands until her daughter Kelsey developed her own interest in cheering.
“I worked with the peewees in Salida for several years and then progressed to the high school as Kelsey grew,” Peter said.
Having coached the Salida Spartans for five years, Kathy was able to lead her squad to the 2012 Runner-Up Co-Ed division and continued to place in the top five before moving to South Park.
“I told the squad when we first started with open gyms and camp that to be a good cheerleader/person, you have to work hard, stay true to your commitment and responsibility. To achieve those, they would have to work hard, answer to themselves, their coach, and their squad.
“Our squad isn’t like most teams … if one gets hurt or can’t make it to practice, we can’t just ‘fill in.’ Each person has a specific role, so one or more just can’t not be there. Each person on this squad made the commitment so must follow through with it.
“Each cheerleader understood the commitment and took it on. This squad learned the true meaning of team, what it takes to become one, what it takes to stay one and how to overcome adversities to be the best. There were challenges along the way, and they worked together as a team, which is something that they do based on the trust they formed with each other, which may have been lacking.”
Reaching beyond sideline cheers and halftime performances, the Burro cheerleaders made their mark on the CHSAA, when taking on the 2018 State Spirit Championships Dec. 7-8 and placing third in the class 2A division among 12 teams from across the state.
“I feel that state competition adds a whole other element to cheer. I first believe cheering is done to boost school spirit and to promote good sportsmanship. Yet, the state competition is the time to shine your abilities as athletes and showcase your squad. I believe it has set the foundation because it makes them be great,” Peter said.
In a two-day stretch, the Denver Coliseum was packed with countless Colorado cheerleading, co-ed, pompom and dance squads ranging from classes 2A-5A.
CHSAA had preset the separation of the cheer preliminary round for Dec. 7, where the South Park cheerleaders wowed three separate judging panels to score a hefty 57.98 and seed third overall. Ranked below Highland (60.67) and Cheyenne Wells (58.78), the Burros were able to outperform Hoehne (54.70), Limon (53.13), Hotchkiss (51.03), Gilpin County (47.48), Sanford (46.70), Wiley (46.50), Peyton (45.83), Swink (45.68) and Meeker (41.25) to advance into the final round the following day.
Returning for the final showcase among approximately 22 cheer squads from classes of 2A-5A, the number-three-ranked Burros of the class 2A division powered to a score of 61.57 for a final third place status to beat Hoehne with a final score of 54.92 and rank below Highland at 69.90 and Cheyenne Wells at 67.13.
“I know that this squad would love to participate every year, and it is something that, with hard work, can be done. They are always wanting to continue with their training, which you can see they do at the games. By cheering, keeping the spirit going by having fan participation and performing skills, keeps them in tip-top shape,” Peter said.
In addition to their successes, the Burro squad was highlighted as one of their own, Abby Elliot, was named to the Elite Cheer Team for Colorado at the State Competition.
“Abby, as a sophomore, has a huge understanding of cheer and the commitment it takes on and off the field to be a role model and leader,” Peter said.
Although the 2018-2019 South Park cheerleading squad will lose four of its athletes to graduation, the future of the program rests in strong leaders, and the squad will look for replacements during postseason tryouts.
“Cheer is the longest season. We start with offseason in June and don’t wind down until postseason is complete with the winter sports,” Peter said.
“By then, all are ready for a break, but hit it again in April time frame to gear up for tryouts for the upcoming season. Tryouts are ways to get to know others and let newbies decide if cheer is a direction they would like to try,” Peter said. “I encourage anyone that thinks they might want to do cheer to try. It’s fun.”