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HHS cheer squad wins regionals; places third, again, at state trials

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Photo submitted The Hotchkiss High School Co-ed Cheer Squad poses with their regional title trophy from the 2016 Western Colorado Spirit Regional Competition. The team went on to finish third in state competition. Back row (from left); Aubree Harward, Wil

The Hotchkiss High School Co-ed Cheer Squad performed well again at the Colorado State High School Activities Association state spirit competition, held Dec. 9 at the Denver Coliseum. The team of two boys and 14 girls placed third in the 2A/3A Co-Ed division cheer competition.

This is only the second year the team has competed in the co-ed division. At the regional competition, held Nov. 19 at Grand Junction High School, Hotchkiss claimed its second consecutive regional 2A/3A title.

"I'm very proud of them," said head coach Liz Heidrick. "It's a big accomplishment."

This is the second consecutive year the team placed third at state, and that was bitter-sweet, said Heidrick. "They believed they could bring home that trophy." But as they were improving their skills and routines, so were the other teams, and that raised the overall level of competition. The same two teams that edged them out last year, St. Mary's and Strasberg, did so again this year. The Bulldogs missed winning silver by a heart-breaking eight-tenths of a point.

Last year the team made school history by placing in the top three in state in cheer. Immediately after competition they set their sights on the 2016 championship and began training and choreographing and practicing their new routines. Athletes improved their tumbling skills and worked throughout the year, attending regular practices and voluntary summer workouts. They also entered floats in Delta County area parades, performing stunts and routines for the crowds while on moving flatbed trailers.

The team also attended a National Cheerleaders Association summer cheer camp. Skylar Hoage, Kaila Harward, Jade Hart, Amber Mattler, Kaleigh Little, Ruby Spyker and Joe Nault were all nominated for National Cheerleaders Association All American honors by their coaches, an honor that fewer than five percent of participants receive, said Heidrick. Hoage, Nault and Harward are team co-captains and the only seniors on this year's team. That they won't be part of the team in 2017 is "a huge loss for my team," said Heidrick.

Hotchkiss has a long legacy of cheerleaders going back to the beginning of the school, and is the only school in Delta County that still has a cheer squad, said Heidrick. She would love to see the sport make a comeback in this area. The last cheerleading team to bring home a CHSAA state champion trophy was in 1996. "It would have been real sweet to bring that trophy home on the 20th anniversary," said Heidrick, who also coached the 1996 team.

At least one athlete hopes to carry his experience with him to college. Nault plans to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction and try out for the CMU cheerleading squad. CMU is known for its cheerleading program and last year were the runners-up at the Division II coed division Universal Cheer Association College Nationals at Disneyworld.

The team is already eyeing 2017 competition. While they're losing the three seniors, most of the team's members have at least two seasons of competition under them. The athletes are very passionate about cheerleading, said Heidrick. Once they start improving and competing they get hooked, she said. That makes them want to do better in everything. It shows not only in their performances, but in their grades and attendance records, and in their attitudes about life in general.

Photo submitted From left, HHS co-ed spirit team co-captains and seniors Skylar Hoage, Joseph Nault and Kaila Harward pose with the 2A/3A co-ed Varsity Cheer Western Colorado regional championship trophy won on Nov. 19 at Grand Junction High School.
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