West Holmes cheerleading

West Holmes competitive cheer team hopes this is the year they break into the top 10 at state

West Holmes competition cheerleaders hoping this is the year to infiltrate the top 10 at state

For fans who show up on game night to watch the West Holmes Knights basketball teams, the cheerleaders on the sideline may not come into focus that much. However, a closer inspection and digging into their competition season would paint a very different picture.

In competition these are not girls who stand on the sideline and shout encouragement to the teams on the floor and to the fans in the stands. These girls are a group of athletic, spirited tumblers whose routines are intricate sets, full of back flips, tumbles, in-depth choreography, painstaking attention to detail, and above all a huge dose of enthusiasm and spirit.

In short, competitive cheer is something that many athletes would struggle with because of the incredible amount of attention to exact detail and the commitment to perfection.

“People have no idea of how much time and energy these girls pour into this,” said Raven Wilcox, the West Holmes cheerleading advisor who was once herself a Knights cheer team member. “Competition is an entirely different thing that is so involved and detailed that it takes a huge amount of practice to perfect it all.”

West Holmes has never gotten better than 10th place at state, so the goal is to invade the Div. III state competition and show exactly why they belong inside the top 10 and maybe even at the top of the podium.

“These girls set that goal of getting inside the top 10 early on,” Wilcox said.

The practice schedule for the cheer team is every bit as demanding as any other high school sport. The skill, the technique, the attention to detail and even the very real possibility of injury is as real for competitive cheer as any sport.

“We come in and practice hard every day, and we go all out and practice 100 percent to make ourselves better, West Holmes senior co-captain Dailyn Patterson said.

“This doesn’t work if we don’t work 100 percent at doing it together as a team,” senior co-captain Brittney Tyson said. “We have to all put in 100 percent effort. We all have to be present, and if we are out there trying to do our own thing, it is going to fail.”

Wilcox goes through painstaking hours of creating unique and compelling routines. She designs all of the routines and tries to use her team’s strengths as she develops the programs.

“I’ll be lying in bed, and I’ll think of an idea, so I’ll hop out of bed and write it down so I don’t forget it,” Wilcox said. “The girls are really good at picking them up quickly. We generally video each set, and they can take it home with them and practice.”

As a member of one of the teams that finished 11th at state, Wilcox knows what a top-10 finish would mean to her girls.

“We’ve developed a great program,” Wilcox said. “I started when our seniors were seventh-graders, and I have moved up along with them, so I have seen how much they have invested in this sport. They have all taken it very seriously, and they have stepped up and improved so much this year. This is a big deal to all of us because we know how much work we have invested in this.”

When a fan only sees the cheerleaders during game nights on the sideline, they can’t comprehend the sheer number of athletic moves that take place. Yes, they occasionally see a cheerleader or two careen across the floor in a series of back flips and tumbles, but until you watch them at their craft as they bounce around the mat at 100 mph chaos that somehow is perfectly timed and organized, it is very difficult to get a sense of how hard this sport really is.

“Competition cheerleading is definitely a sport, and I don’t think people really realize that because they don’t see what goes on during a practice,” Tyson said. “All most people see is what we do on game nights on the sideline, and that couldn’t be further from what takes place during competition.”

Most of these competitive cheerleaders who make up the West Holmes cheer squad have devoted themselves to tumble, dance and cheerleading since the third grade or earlier.

Like many of their teammates, both senior co-captains worked at a very young age in dance at Jenyce’s School of Dance in Millersburg.

Tyson said those informative years at Jenyce’s helped her build confidence and a joy for what she does.

“When I was little, I wanted to try everything, and that was what stuck with me as being the most enjoyable,” Tyson said. “When you’re little, you look at all of these older girls, and you want to be like them. They are so graceful and powerful, and dance becomes the first step in becoming a competitive cheerleader.”

Preparing for competition is incredibly difficult, and Wilcox creates most of what takes place on the mat from her own ideas of what they can do to impress the judges. The routines are long, tedious challenges that demand perfection because in team cheer the slightest misstep really stands out.

“Coach comes up with most of what we do, but she always listens to our input and allows us to add our own ideas into the mix,” Patterson said. “That makes it a total team effort, and that also makes it more enjoyable because we all have to invest.”

The Knights cheer group recently received Best Choreography at the Ashland regional competition as well as achieving the best overall score. That only adds to the fire of making it into the top 10 at state, something no West Holmes cheer team has ever achieved.

But when they finished third at the Ohio Cardinal Conference cheer competition, that only served as a source to fuel their desire to come back even stronger at state.

“We took that loss hard,” Patterson said.

“That made us realize we had to work a whole lot harder and we had to get a lot better in a hurry, and we did that,” Tyson said.

Daily practices include warm-ups, tumbling exercises, breaking down into groups of two or three so they can work on timing aspects of the routines, and finally a group session that allows them to see how the entire program plays out and to help them see where they can improve.

The two seniors have learned a great deal about leadership through the process of growing up in the program. Patterson said she was the lone freshman on a team filled with seniors, so she took that as a true learning experience, one that she can now pass along her wisdom to younger members.

“I learned a lot that year with nine seniors on the team, and that forced me to step into a leadership role,” Patterson said.

As senior leaders and co-captains, Tyson said the experience helps build leadership because at some point they both realized that this was their senior year, their final year, and they wanted to go out doing something really special.

Both seniors are going on to college next year to pursue degrees in the health world. Patterson is hoping to pursue a career in pediatrics while Tyson will pursue a master’s degree in health science and plans to continue her education to get her master’s in science and medicine.

The girls laughed at the stereotypical belief that cheerleaders were these none-too-intelligent blondes that get portrayed far too often.

“That’s so stereotypical to think that cheerleaders are these dumb blondes,” Tyson said with a laugh. “Yet here we are, accomplishing some pretty awesome things that take a huge amount of dedication and intelligence because they are extremely hard to learn and perform.”

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