Spirit squads excel at cheer and dance state competition

Elly Green, Print Production Manager

A spirit squad’s main duty is to keep the players and school community engaged in whatever event is happening that day, to keep school spirit at an all time high. However, what most people do not know is that spirit squads, both dance and cheer teams, have an entirely different competitive season outside of gameday events. 

For years, cheerleading in Kansas has been an athletic activity allowed to participate in state competition held by the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHAA). At the high school, the Newton Railers cheer team made their way to the state competition two years ago before the implementation of new head coach, Krystyna Botterweck. Again this year, the cheer team headed to the Stormont Vail Event Center in Topeka, KS for the state competition hosted on Nov. 20. 

State is a good experience for the team to get out and perform for someone else other than their normal crowd. It gives them an opportunity to find out what is working and what we can do better at,” Botterweck said. “Everyone has the misconception of cheer not being a sport but I’d like to see the majority of those people come do what my team does. There’s a lot more to it then cute outfits and waving pom poms. So just like every other sport, cheer has the opportunity to compete at a state level against other teams so I would never dream of taking that opportunity away from my team.”

As for the Railiner dance team, a KSHAA dance state competition only was awarded to teams starting the 2020-2021 season. However, due to its requirement of being completely online, the Railiner dance team decided to wait until the 2021-2022 season, where they would be able to compete in person. Therefore, this year the dance team made their way to Topeka on Nov. 19, for their first state competition process.

I think that the whole team is a little nervous but mostly excited to see how we can do and what we’re capable of,” sophomore Mckinley Mueller said. 

Both cheer and dance are judged on a variation of elements that make the routine look interesting and clean. However, unlike dance, cheer is judged on game day material such as includement of pom-poms, megaphones and signs. Both teams are judged on technical elements, but cheer is judged on kicks and jumps as technique and dance is judged on elements such as turns, toes and legs.

“We are judged on elements such as; crowd effectiveness [such as] our energy and ability to connect with/lead the crowd, visual appeal, are we fun to watch – not boring; do we have levels and line changes opposed to just standing in one spot the entire time, motion technique [specifically] sharpness, placement, technique; synchronization and overall impression,” Botterweck said. “We are also judged on whether we stay within our time limit and stay within bounds.”

A state competition requires a certain level of attention and practice that regular game day routines do not always consist of, says Mueller. Extra practices and nit-picking dances to make them as clean as possible are all examples of the extra effort being put into these state routines by both cheer and dance. Specifically, the cheerleaders are working extra hours at home and are active in retaining information at practice. The dance team along with having longer practice times has their team members taking extra classes.

While it’s not specific to state, all of us go to different dance studios where we do competitions and classes and we just work really hard to [get] to where we are,” Mueller said.

Both teams express that winning is not everything to them, rather that they want to use this opportunity to grow a team and get the chance to take judge corrections and apply them to their game day routines. That being said, the dance team did end up placing at the state competition with a sixth place win out of 21 teams. 

“I think state is a good experience just for learning how to perform but also so we get the experience of going to something of such importance and using that as motivation to work harder rather than make us nervous,” Mueller said.