By Tim Leeds
A squad of Havre High School cheerleaders will leave at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow to compete at the second annual state cheerleading championship in Lewistown Saturday, March 24, starting at noon.
"(The squad) should do very well," head coach Stacee Steyee said. "We are hoping to take away a first. The possibility is there."
Steyee said they will be competing against six Class A schools at the championship, but toughest competition will probably be against Lewistown.
"Last year they took first, so we'll be trying to dethrone them," she said.
Seniors Sarah LaPlaunt and Mandy Miller are the only members of last year's team returning to the competition this year. LaPlaunt said last year's competition was fun, but they really didn't know what to expect. It was a new experience, she said.
"I think we're a lot better prepared this year," she said. "We know more what to expect and what's expected of us."
Steyee and her assistant coach, Mary Naber, will be taking nine other competitors to the championship with LaPlaunt and Miller. The rest of the squad consists of juniors Seve Turner, Cherish Fehr, Lindsey Mazurkiewicz and Laura Hedstrom, and sophomores Karla McCormick, Stacy Naber, Cari Milam, Christy Bradbury and Ashley Pattison. Junior Lisa Larson was injured in a skiing accident and will not be able to compete, but is traveling with the squad.
Steyee said the ranking at the competition will be broken down by school class, with the certified and trained judges provided by the Universal Cheerleading Association. She said each performance is a maximum of 2 minutes, and judging will include categories of stunting, tumbling, choreography, synchronization, and vocal performance. The performances will resemble the college cheerleading competitions broadcast on television, she said.
She said the team has been working since January to prepare for the competition. They have held practices twice a day and have been going to Big Sky Gymnastics to work on tumbling, stunts, jumps and so on. Steyee said Sandy Bushard and her sons, Brandon and Preston, have been coaching them on the techniques and the work they have done shows.
"It has worked immensely," she said. " This year we have kids who can really do gymnastics."
Steyee said they hired a choreographer out of Canada to help choreograph the routine, which they have worked over since then. She said the choreographer was basically a specialist in dance, and they had to add tumbling and gymnastic routines. The original choreography was basically just a framework for the finished product.
"We made a lot of changes and the girls contributed most to the choreography," Steyee said.
Steyee said that with just two seniors leaving and a large group of talented juniors and sophomores remaining, she has high hopes for the future.
"The squat that's there, the potential is amazing," she said. "As coaches, we've really worked to build our team, our squad They're meeting every expectation we ever could have had for them."
Steyee said this kind of ability is what is necessary to participate in college-level cheerleading.
"I wanted to be able to send girls to college to cheer," she said. "I wanted to provide that opportunity to Havre girls. Any of these girls could go onto the college level now."
She said the activity is just in its infancy in Montana now, with just the second championship happening this weekend. She said she thinks there might be more competitions happening as the activity grows.
Steyee said she has lost her position due to the restructuring of the Havre Public Schools, and won't be back to coach next year. She said she will miss the opportunity to see the squad continue to improve and compete, but she hopes the new tradition will continue.