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HHS Cheer Squad has eye on state and beyond

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The Hotchkiss High School Cheer Squad performs Saturday during the Crawford Pioneer Days Parade. The squad of 15 girls and three boys practices year-round. Last year they placed third in state spirit competition. This year they have their eye on the state

A Hotchkiss High School athletic team has its collective hopes set on winning a state title, and it's working hard year-round to reach that goal.

The 18-member Hotchkiss High School varsity co-ed cheerleader squad -- Kaila Harward, Joseph Nault, Skylar Hoage, Jenny MacDonald, Taylor West, Amber Mattler, Peyton Short, Jade Hart, Aubree Harward, Sierra Baker, Jade Miller, Kiley Olsen, Ruby Speicher, Joli Derby, Kaleigh Little, Billy Scriver, JP Scriver and Jordyn Keeler -- isn't taking the summer off. Squad members are training throughout the summer on perfecting their state routine.

The squad competes in Class 2A spirit and cheer, sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association. Last fall they won the Western Slope regional title and became the first Hotchkiss cheering squad in history to make the final four at state competition. The squad finished third out of 23 teams, and had no point deductions, said team co-captain Kaila Harward, missing second place by a mere half point.

If they'd made the top two they would have qualified for national competition, said Harward. "We're aiming for that this year."

To help prepare for the upcoming season, the team is also attending skill camps at University of Northern Colorado and Colorado Mesa University this summer. They also travel regularly to Grand Junction to work with a professional choreographer, said Harward.

For the team, that means year-round fundraising. Last weekend they sponsored a float in the 38th annual Pioneer Days parade, performing stunts for the crowd throughout the parade route. They also manned a booth, selling baked goods, tiny toddler-sized cheer outfits and handmade accessories including cheer bows and pom-poms, all Bulldog red, white and gray, of course.

Money raised this summer and throughout the year goes toward uniforms, camps, and travel expenses, said coach Liz Heidrick. While the team has to cover most of its expenses, school administration is very supportive, said Heidrick, and helps cover state and regional trips. "It's expensive anymore, providing buses and vans and we really do appreciate that," she said. Schools have been hit hard with budget cuts, and that affects extracurricular activities. "It's more important for the community to support local schools than ever," said Heidrick.

The team also cheers during halftime of all home football and basketball games and helps support the Lady Bulldogs volleyball team. They do a lot of team bonding, and volunteer in area communities, visiting senior homes and helping with fundraising and other charitable events.

They also have an annual presence at Paonia Cherry Days, and this year they will have a booth at the Delta County Fair. "The kids are really putting their hearts into it," said Heidrick. Summer participation isn't mandatory, but they don't mind. "They really want to be here."

The team is looking to grow and add new talent, said Heidrick. They will hold tryouts in August. Anyone interested in joining the team can call her at 970-234-5344.

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