Cheers from Across the Pond
WDC Cheer Team is London Bound
by Jackie Jenson
Photography by Thru Him Photography
For Wadena-Deer Creek seniors Nicole Iken, Sydney Emerson, Ashely Lehmkuhl and Kloe Pettit-Sperling, cheerleading is more than a high school activity, it is a ticket to travel to far away places and an opportunity to do what they love with a group of girls they love just as much.
“I’ve been a football cheerleader for four years,” relays Nicole. “I like cheering because it is both challenging and fun.”
“I like that I get to be on a team with my friends and cheer under the Friday night lights which is so awesome,” notes Kloe.
“It’s also less stressful [ than other sports],” adds Sydney. “You get to be part of a team but also have time for other things and school.”
Nicole, Sydney, Ashley and Kloe are part of the Wadena-Deer Creek football cheer squad which consists of twelve student athletes under the direction of Holly Becker. Last year the entire WDC cheer team got the opportunity to perform at the Citrus Bowl Pre-Game show on January 1, 2016 that was held in Orlando, Fla. Just one of their many accolades of late.
“We were part of a Universal Cheerleader Association, UCA, Pre-Game show,” explains Nicole. “The best of the best,” she notes.
“It was a great experience,” recalls Kloe. “We were featured in the middle group which is really great spot to be positioned.”
“It was a lot of fun, but it was also pretty hot,” adds Ashley.
This year Iken, Emerson, Lehmkuhl and Pettit-Sperling tried out to be part of another type of elite UCA cheer squad. Scoring high enough to qualify for this elite group of cheerleaders from all over the United States, the four senior WDC cheerleaders discovered on August 9th that they would be traveling to London, England this winter, representing their school in the city’s News Day Parade.
“It was tough competition to get to London,” notes Nicole. “Eight [from our team] tried out and four made it.”
“We had to learn and perform an ‘extreme routine’ for the try-out, our best jump, cheer and dance,” explains Sydney.
“We are so excited to perform in the New Year’s Day Parade and stay a week in London,” says Ashley.
Next on the agenda is to fundraise for the pricey trip across the pond. The girls, however, approach their fundraising endeavor as just another part of preparing for the upcoming cheer season which consists of getting physically into cheer condition, learning a number of new cheers, perfecting their coordinated stunts and securing funds to get to London.
“We’ve done a few fundraisers and were even on the radio,” notes Lehmkuhl.
“It’s very intense. We’ve kind of bonded over the whole thing,” adds Pettit-Sperling.
Both Emerson and Pettit-Sperling have been on the team for two years and this is Lehmkuhl’s first year on the squad. Iken has been a member of the WDC Cheer team since she was a freshman in high school. Considered a veteran on the team, Iken chalks up their recent series of successes to working hard and having a good attitude. She also points to the fact that the team is continually adding new talent as friends and freshman try out for the team each year.
“Half the team is new this year which makes everyone try harder,” explains Iken.
It is this constant mix of old and new participants that helps the team remain positive, competitive and open to trying new willing to try new things. With more than 70 cheers on this season’s roster, there is always something new to learn according to the veteran cheerleader.
To condition for the season and learn all the various stunts needed, the cheerleading squad, much like other Minnesota State High School League sanctioned activities, the cheer team practices over the summer, putting in more than 50 hours of training in to ensure their cheers are ready for the football season and appear seamless to the crowd.
“It takes a lot of arm muscle to do lifts,” notes Pettit-Sperling. “You have to get into the right mind set to do some of these complicated cheers. We work out a lot.”
“In addition to stunt boot camp, we also run, do push–ups and work on our abs and legs to get ready for the season as fast as we can,” comments Iken. “We practice hard in the summer to prepare. This year we will be performing more than seventy different cheers.”
“Some of the stunts can be a little scary to do until you really learn them,” adds Emerson. “My favorite cheer, though, is Boogie on Down,” says Sydney. “But you really can’t beat Go, Fight Win!
Incorporating more than 20 stunts –things like extensions, pyramid, splits, and backflips to 50-plus cheers, the learning curve is high. There are several unique stunts that you may not know by their name, but could recognize in their performances that are challenging to execute correctly. Things like a “Swedish Fall” which amounts to a number of team members lifting another cheerleader to make it look like she is simply lying in the air.
“You have to be strong to be both a flyer [a person who gets lifted] and the person lifting them up,” notes Iken.
After finishing a two-day cheer and stunt camp on August 8-9, the cheer team is readying itself for the upcoming football season, which will take place before school is even in session. Their first game is September 2nd.
“The season comes up fast, but I can’t wait to cheer under the lights,” says Pettit-Sperling.
When asked why they each wanted to become a cheerleader, the answer is simple and very similar for the WDC seniors. In a word – fun.
Lehmkuhl is a three sport athlete, participating in Cheerleading, Dance Team and Softball. For Iken, Emerson and Pettit-Sperling, Cheerleading is their only sport this year, although they have participated in other sports such as Volleyball and Dance Team through the years.
“We work together very well,” concludes Iken. “Getting to be on a team, though, with your friends and having everyone working together is the best part of being on the WDC Cheer Team. We can’t wait for London.”