Panther cheer team places sixth at state

Posted 3/17/20

The 2020 State Spirit Competition will be remembered as a unique one for Powell High School.

It was the first time the Panther cheer team included boys. The tournament also took an unexpected turn …

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Panther cheer team places sixth at state

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The 2020 State Spirit Competition will be remembered as a unique one for Powell High School.

It was the first time the Panther cheer team included boys. The tournament also took an unexpected turn when the cheerleaders found out they wouldn’t actually get to cheer for the Panther basketball team while in Casper, as the state tournament was canceled.

Prior to Thursday’s sudden cancellation, the State Spirit Competition proceeded as planned on Wednesday, with PHS cheerleaders placing sixth in the Game Day category.

“I was really pleased with their performance, and they had a lot of fun, and that’s what I always tell them — just go out there and have a good time,” said cheer coach Vicki Walsh.

With 11 teams, she described the 3A competition as tough.

“Our division is very competitive and there’s a lot of really, really good teams, so I knew it was going to be tough,” Walsh said.

The PHS cheer squad includes 11 girls and two boys.

“They all competed really well, and I was happy with the routine,” Walsh said.

The team had “one little bobble” in one of the ending stunts, she said.

“But you know, that happens, and a lot of times, even when those things happen, it doesn’t necessarily make or break your routine,” the coach said.

The Panthers’ score was 78.45, not far behind Star Valley (80.95), Wheatland (81.675), Douglas (81.950) and Lyman (82.350). Mountain View took the title with a score of 88.8.

In the Game Day category, some teams include boys while others are all-girl squads.

“So you all compete together, even with the teams that don’t have boys,” Walsh said.

It marked the first time boys competed with PHS at the State Spirit Competition, said Walsh, who has coached for 21 years.

“Their biggest role in all of it was the stunting aspect of it,” she said of the boys, senior Brody Karhu and junior Geordan Weimer.

“I have a pretty good diverse group of girls, and they can all do so much, but obviously, having that boy strength in there makes a big difference, too,” she said. “It just kind of enhanced some of the stunts we could do in that routine.”

For Karhu and Weimer, it was their first time attending the State Spirit Competition, so it was an eye-opener, Walsh said.

“They really seemed to enjoy it and they both had a lot of fun,” Walsh said, adding that Weimer plans to continue next year. “And the girls were amazing as well.”

PHS cheerleaders didn’t realize Wednesday that it would be their final time cheering this season, as they expected to be on the sidelines for the Panther boys’ games throughout the state basketball tournament.

Coach Walsh said they were at their hotel Thursday morning when rumblings of changes to the tournament started circulating, due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus. Walsh called PHS Activities Director Scott McKenzie, who was watching a basketball game, which ended up being the final one of the tournament.

“Things just trickled down from there,” Walsh said.

At first, there was talk that everything was a go; then the cheerleaders heard only players, coaches and athletic directors would be allowed at games.

“And then within half an hour, not even, it was completely canceled,” Walsh said. “It was kind of shocking. You know, you just feel so bad for the kids … especially for those seniors, they didn’t really realize that Wednesday night was their last go around — they didn’t get to cheer again.”

But PHS cheerleaders are thankful they had the opportunity to compete.

“We were very fortunate to get to be able to have our whole day,” Walsh said.

Cindy Jacobs also coached the PHS cheerleading team. This year’s squad included seniors Luci Abarca, Scarlette Mendoza, Kailey Jurado and Karhu; juniors Mia Baxter, Kaydee Black and Weimer; sophomores Morgan Schmidt, Rylee White, Josseline Mendoza and Lorena Vazquez; and freshmen Alexa Nardini and Madi Black.

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