Panther cheer heads to Casper

1st place in Cody meet sets stage for state

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With a win at the Cody Cheer Competition last month, confidence is high for the Powell High School cheer team as they head to Casper for Wednesday’s State Cheer Competition.

In Cody, the Panthers took first out of four teams in the stunt and game day categories; the stunt routine is 2.5 minutes long, while the game day routine is three minutes.

“It was a small competition, with only four teams there,” said PHS head coach Vicki Walsh. “But it was a really good opportunity for them to get some exposure and practice both of their routines in a competition setting. They get feedback from the judges, so it was a good time.”

Rocky Mountain, Riverton and Worland also competed in the game day category, while just Rocky competed against Powell in the stunts category. Host team Cody had to withdraw due to several of its athletes nursing injuries; Riverton’s stunt team was also unable to compete for the same reason.

“It’s tough, because if you’re out one or two people, that might be a critical part to your team,” Walsh said. “I always tell my kids that when one’s gone, the whole team is affected.”

Judging in cheer can be very subjective, according to Walsh, though the feedback for the team was very positive. There are always things to work on, such as energy level and making sure to smile.

“Those are the things that the girls who have never competed before don’t quite understand yet, that having to go out there and put on your show face the whole time,” Walsh explained. “So we got some comments about that. Little things, like pointing your toes on your jumps and staying tight in your stunts, things like that you always practice on. But the comments were very useful.”

The Panthers will hit the road this week for the state competition in Casper, which starts Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at the Casper Events Center. The competition is an all-class event, with 11 teams from around the state scheduled to compete in the Class 3A game day and stunt categories. Walsh said the final practices leading up to the state competition have been about keeping energy levels high and making sure the routines are dialed in.

“There will definitely be plenty of competition,” Walsh said. “We’ll just be focusing on making sure we’re all there and healthy, which is crucial at this point. At this point, I basically just tell the girls, ‘You know what you need to do. You know the routines, you have it down. You just have to go out and execute it.’”

Even though it is a competition, what Walsh hopes for the most is that her team has a memorable experience.

“My biggest thing for them when they go to state is just to make sure that they go out on the mat and have fun,” she said. “Not worry about the other things, just go out and have a good time, and know that when you’re done you gave it 100 percent. That’s what you need to do.”

Walsh said with it being such a young team this season, there’s a lot of nerves and excitement for the girls going to state for the first time. The Panthers’ six seniors — Sarah Rodriguez, Alyssa Gould, Gracie McLain, McKennah Buck, Gabri Lundberg and McKenzie Thompson — have been instrumental in preparing their younger teammates for the state’s biggest stage, but nothing, according to Walsh, can prepare you for that first moment you step out on the mat.

“It’s a really big crowd,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize how many people come to state cheer, but the center will be full. It’s fun, but I think the first time, the girls are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize this was what it was going to be like.’ But I think they’ll just go out there and leave it all out there on the mat.”

One thing working in the Panthers’ favor is that the team was able to compete in two other events this season, including the 7220 Game Day Spirit Competition in Laramie last fall. Walsh hopes that experience will lend itself to fewer pre-game butterflies heading into Casper.

“We didn’t do our stunt routine in Laramie, but that was a big crowd there too,” she said. “Having that early exposure I think will help them as they take the mat at state.”

PHS Cheer State Roster

Coaches:  Vicki Walsh, Cindy Jacobs

Cheerleaders: Kalli Ashby, Mia Baxter, McKennah Buck, Kaitlyn Decker, Alyssa Gould, Traci Gutierrez, Taeli Hessenthaler, Bayley Kokkeler, Gabri Lundberg, Kiya McIntosh, Gracie McLain, Josseline Mendoza, Scarlette Mendoza, Sarah Rodriguez, Morgan Schmidt, Sophie Stringari, McKenzie Thompson, Lorena Vazquez, Rylee White.

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