Showing fighting spirit
Cheer and Dance teams take home wins from rescheduled State competition
March 16, 2023
After waiting over a month, the Green River High School Cheer team and Wolfpack Dance team finally got their chance to compete in the State Spirit Competition last week. While the wait was hard, it may have been worth it, as the Cheer team came home victorious with a Championship win in Co-Ed Stunt and a second-place win in Game Day, and the Wolfpack Dance team returned with a second-place win in Hip Hop and a Coach of the Year award for Head Coach Debi Kovick.
Waiting an extra month to compete at State was just one of the many obstacles the Wolves Cheer team had to overcome this season.
One of the biggest struggles was a change in the coaching staff in November, mid-way through the season. Mikayla Smart came into the program as the new head coach, and she knew the transition would be difficult.
"The team was just struggling with the changes that they had been through," Smart explained. "I feel like we had to really focus and get back down to basics and just relearn how to do a lot of things."
She said the team was already great and full of talent when she came in, but they needed some help getting ready for competition again.
"At the end of the day, that's our main goal," she said. "We do support other teams, we cheer at games and all of those things, but the main goal is to compete at State. And so I think it was a really trying season for the team, but they really worked hard to overcome the things that they've been through. And they just had so much drive and focus and grit to get to the end goal at State."
So when the team felt ready to compete when the day for State finally came, everyone was especially disappointed when the competition was postponed due to weather and closed roads.
"It was really trying for the team because we had put all our energy and focus into January," Smart admitted. However, she also believes the delay was in many ways a blessing in disguise.
"We really had to refocus and find different ways to continue to put our drive and grit into those six weeks that we were given, and we actually ended up having the opportunity to advance our skills and make our routine a little bit harder," Smart said. "And I think that's what put us over the top."
The team competed in two out of three categories in the State competition - Game Day and Co-Ed Stunt. Smart explained that each category has different rules, such as time limits and required stunts.
The Game Day category was especially difficult, as Green River was competing against 11 other teams from bigger schools. Although Green River is a 3A school, the GRHS Cheer team is on the big side with 27 members, so they compete against 4A schools.
"In Game Day, we came in as the runner up and there was only a .05 score difference from us and the first place trophy," Smart explained. She said this is the smallest scoring difference she's seen, but that's how close cheer competitions can be.
The scores were also close when it came to the Co-Ed category, which five schools participated in. Green River came away with a score of 87.4, which was higher than their score last year, and almost two points higher than the next routine.
"We ended up coming out on top," Smart said.
While she knew that the coaches and team members all wanted to win, she also said they weren't sure what would happen and didn't have any expectations.
"So when they called our name it was just the best feeling in the world," she said. "So many tears, so many happy tears, obviously. But it was incredible, because they have worked so hard and have overcome so many obstacles this year. And it was just the perfect ending to such a hard season."
Looking to the future, Smart is already preparing for tryouts and hoping to bring in more team members, especially more male athletes. And she's ready for even more competition this fall and next year, with not just State, but Regionals and hopefully a spot at Nationals.
"Cheer is a very different kind of sport because we do only have one shot, one chance to do what we've worked hard for all year," Smart said. "Every sport takes hard work and drive, but I think that cheer almost takes more."
Another sport that takes hard work is dance, and the Wolfpack Dance team faced their own sets of challenges this season.
This year's team was full of young and new members, Assistant Coach Christine Peterson explained. Six team members that started last year competed for their second time this year, and they were joined by four new freshmen and one junior who had never competed before.
The team also had to go up against much bigger schools in the State competition, since the Jazz category combines 3A and 4A schools together into one group.
"It's hard to compete against the schools that are two to three times your size," Peterson said. "We weren't expecting a placement with that, we just expected them to do their best and improve, and they did well."
The team placed sixth in the Jazz category, which was the second-place finish among the 3A schools. Peterson explained that competing with a Jazz routine every year is a good way to improve technically, but she was proud of the girls for how well they ended up doing.
The dancers also competed in the Hip Hop category, which is where they had higher hopes for a win. Still, Peterson admitted they never know what to expect, since no one can know what might happen on the dance floor or what the judges will like.
"We were hoping to place and bring home a title and so the fact that they got second was - we were just over the moon excited for them," Peterson said. "So that was a perfect ending to our season."
The coaches were especially excited with how the team performed because of the delay in the State competition. The girls had felt ready to perform in January, so the extra month felt like it took a long time to pass. However, Peterson can also see benefits from the delay.
"I think waiting just a little bit longer just gave them more determination to perform well and do their best and they really lifted each other up and encouraged each other," she said.
The delay also gave the team a chance to do a brand-new event - an end-of-year dance review performance and kids' camp. It also helped them raise extra funds through a prize basket raffle, and gave them a chance to acknowledge their sponsors and supporters.
"We had so much community support," Peterson said of the event. "If State hadn't been delayed, that wouldn't have happened, so that was a huge positive I think."
The delay of the competition also gave the whole team an extra sense of appreciation for the opportunity to compete, which they often take for granted, and it brought them all closer as a team to fight through the challenges together.
Leading the team through all those challenges was Head Coach Debi Kovich, who was recognized as the Coach of the Year at State. This was no surprise for Peterson.
"She always gets Coach of the Year," Peterson said with a laugh.
Kovich has been to State eight times, and Peterson has been five, and out of her five years she's seen Kovich be named Coach of the Year three times.
"She gets it more than she doesn't get it," Peterson said, adding that Kovich is "always very humble about it," but that the other spirit coaches look to her as a leader and are drawn to her friendly and personable nature.
This year Kovich was also voted to be secretary of the Wyoming Cheer Board, which is a volunteer position.
"She really does love her job, she loves coaching and is passionate about making it the best that it can be for Green River, for the state, for girls that want to dance and be a part of something," Peterson said.
As Kovich and Peterson look to the future for the team, they hope to continue making it a place for not only those who can dance already but those who are excited to learn.