By Brandon Hansen/The Independent Staff
Regardless of the result, there’s a lot of hard work on display when you watch a Cougar athletic event.
The Jenkins High School cheerleaders aren’t the exception to this rule either. Boosting school spirit and always putting on a smile, these students put in two hours of practice four days a week. They’re performing difficult stunts, cheers and dance routine that you just can’t make up on the fly.
“Last season the girls sacrificed some of their Christmas Break to learn a routine we performed at districts,” Jenkins High School cheer coach Lindsey Pettigrew said. “We don’t get multiple tries to get something right, we have one shot.”
Rain or shine, win or lose, the Cougar cheerleaders are always positive. There are ten girls for football and 11 for basketball with the majority of the football cheerleaders rolling over into the basketball season. There are three seniors, three juniors and six sophomores as well as a foreign exchange student and seven of the cheerleaders are returners.
“I also tell them they have to practice at home,” Pettigrew said. “We have a lot of material that you have to remember at the drop of a hat. If you aren’t practicing you’re that person that makes it look sloppy or not well-rehearsed.”
There’s no subs in cheerleading either. These girls are completely committed because a sickness, injury, ineligible or missed practice causes everything to be shuffled.
Jenkins High School brought back stunting last year, meaning that the girls had a learning curve figuring out how to be safe and protect themselves while doing the high-flying stunts.
“When you’re falling you attempt to catch yourself,” Pettigrew said. “As a flyer you rely solely on your bases and spots to catch you. You can’t be flailing or someone could be hurt. There’s a great deal of trust that goes into it as well as practice repetition and skill.”
What perhaps gets lost in focusing on the athletic event out on the field or the court is the great deal of time and energy that the cheerleaders put in. While a routine may be a few minutes long, it took hours to memorize and practice.
“Another thing I don’t think people realize is how much we need the fans’ participation,” Pettigrew said. “We’re there to cheer our team on and when we look to the crowd we’re asking for their voices, enthusiasm and support.”
Chewelah seniors Hannah Fischer (parents Pat and Shawn Fischer), Kindra Hansen (Andrea and Arthur Hansen) and Julie Huguenin (Darlene and Shawn Hofstetter) provide some expert upper classman leadership. While this is Julie’s first year, she’ll be doing both football and basketball. Fischer and Hansen are both returning cheerleaders and were asked by the Universal Cheer Association to attend a tryout for the association.
“Should the girls be taken on they would be traveling all around Washington to teach material to squads,” Pettigrew said.
Pettigrew considers herself lucky to have so many returners, saying it makes the year easier as they can teach material themselves if somebody misses a practice. Time is certainly a resource that the cheer coach dedicates a lot of. The team does fundraising and conditioning practices in the summer.
This year they attended an overnight camp at the high school hosted by UCA and they’re taking on a new aspect: competitive cheerleading.
“We’re blessed to have very supportive parents that sacrifice their time to make sure the girls are at practices, fundraising events and games,” Pettigrew said. “I’m also very fortunate to have an unofficial assistant Amanda Katzer, who has been a tremendous help to myself and the squad.”
The Cougars will start a new tradition where they will be attending at least one competitive cheerleading event every basketball season. This year they will compete in the Jingle Bell Cheer Challenge held in Spokane.
And they’ll also still be at Chewelah athletic events, so give them a cheer.
“I would love ideas and suggestions new or old from fans in the stands of how we can get them more involved,” Pettigrew said. “It’s important to us to have their perspective as they’re our target audience.”
Pettigrew and the squad also wanted say they have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the local businesses that have helped them out.
“The cheerleaders and I would like to thank the community,” Pettigrew said. “Numerous businesses around town donate to us and make some our biggest needs become reality. We couldn’t do it without their support!”