Cheer and Dance teams make history

When the buses pulled into town on Saturday, accompanied by a police escort and a chorus of cheers and honks, the Green River High School Cheer and Dance teams weren't just bringing home three State Championship titles - they were making history.

For the cheer team, bringing home a win in the Coed Stunt category from the State Spirit Competition is exciting, but nothing new. However, bringing home a win in the Game Day category has never happened before. This year, the team brought back both.

For the dance team, who has come in second in past competitions but never topped first, this year was the first time in school history for the dance program to win a championship placement.

"The escort is one of the best things," Head Cheer Coach Mikayla Smart said, adding how special it was this year as the cheer and dance teams celebrated their wins together. "Having the town rally behind us and knowing that we have that support from our little town is just incredible. We are so lucky to live where we live."

For Wolf Pack Dance Team Assistant Coach Christine Peterson, experiencing the escort was extra meaningful as it was the first for the dance team.

"I had no idea that many people in the community would be there," she said, describing how powerful it was to hear people honk and see them pull in to join the procession. "I did tear up just feeling the support and accomplishment."

The spirit of dance

For the Wolf Pack Dance team, achieving the accomplishment of a State title came after years of hard work.

Peterson explained that the team currently consists of six juniors, five sophomores and one freshman. And many of the team members are girls Peterson has coached not only in high school but in the Lincoln Middle School Dance program as well.

"I feel like these girls are my babies," Peterson said. "They've been a big part of my life for many years and it's really rewarding to see them succeed like they have."

Most of the girls also don't dance competitively outside of the Wolf Pack team, so the level and type of competition at State is something new and challenging. However, they all worked to rise to the challenge.

The team put in extra work time and training in gymnastics and acrobatics this year to improve their skills and tricks. This allowed most of the girls to be able to do big, dynamic tricks like headsprings, Peterson explained, which she believes helped set them apart.

The team also worked with Kioa Reyes, a choreographer from Idaho who has his own Hip-Hop studio, to choreograph the Hip-Hop routine. Reyes studies lots of different Hip-Hop genres and was able to incorporate different styles in the routine, from tribal African moves to B-Boy style, Peterson explained. The routine also combined five different songs within the two and a half minute time frame, bringing in lots of changes and new dynamics.

"The girls had to really be confident to be able to do different styles that they'd never done before and embrace that level of dance," Peterson said.

The Wolf Pack competed in both the Jazz and Hip-Hop categories at State. They did well in Jazz, coming up just about 0.4 points shy of a placement. But the team knew that Hip-Hop would be their strength.

"They just killed it," Peterson said of the Hip-Hop routine. "The audience just really loved it. You could feel the energy."

The judges also clearly loved the routine, giving Green River first place.

"Seeing all that work come to a first placement, it was just unreal," Peterson said.

The team members were shaking with excitement when the results were announced, according to Peterson, and they were full of pure joy when they heard they won.

"I'm really, really proud of them and all the work they did and just the heart and soul that goes into it that people don't always see," Peterson said. "I feel like they showed that, they showed their heart and soul, and so that's why people connected with their routine was because they did let loose and show that part of the soul of dance, which is so much more than just steps and choreography."

The legacy of cheer

Not only is it more than just steps and routines, but for both dance and cheer, the sports have unique challenges. Coach Smart explained that they're not like other sports where you can watch playback in films, play multiple games in a season, or study what other teams do.

"In cheer and dance we often do not have the opportunity to see each other," she said, pointing out that even if they travel to watch another team perform, their performances are different for a game than they are for competition. "We show up with no expectation of what anybody else can do."

This aspect makes it even more important for the team to work hard to do the best they can.

"We just wanted to go out and hit the best routine that we could," Smart said. "I'm just so proud of how the team produced it."

The cheer team competed in Coed Stunt against four other teams, as well as in the 4A Game Day competition with 11 other teams. Smart explained that Game Day is especially competitive, and the scoring is based on specific requirements in both dance and cheer components as well as aspects like cleanliness and engagement with the crowd.

"We just went out and executed an absolutely flawless routine," Smart said. "We received zero deductions in both Game Day and Coed, which is an incredible feat in itself that there were no violations of anything and they were able to hit zeros. And that's what we ask for when we go out and compete is that we hit zeros. If we win on top of that, that's even better, but hitting a flawless routine is all we can ask for."

The team knew they had performed well, but Smart said the best moment feeling was when they hit the final stunt at the end of the routine and had a standing ovation from all the competitors and the spectators. And winning on top of that just made it even better.

"Green River Cheer has a legacy that has been in place for a long time, since I was in highschool, that started with my coach, Tim Chilcott," Smart explained. "We know that when we show up to the State competition that we have eyes on us and very high expectations, so we have big shoes to fill every year, but being able to take a team that changes from year to year and be able to just continue to compete at a high level and compete with bigger schools just goes to show what Green River Cheer is built on and that we're continuing the great legacy."


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