This season, the LSW cheerleading competition team went to regionals under the belief that they would qualify for nationals with ease. After their first qualifying competition—where they placed second out of two and scored lower than anticipated—the team found themselves stuck.
Varsity cheerleader senior Karli Forbes said in order to qualify for nationals the team has to hit a certain score at a qualifying competition; West chose regionals for their qualifier. Once qualified, the team prepares to travel to Disney World for the two-day national competition in Feb.
Rather than wait for confirmation of qualification, the squad started fundraising right away. “This year is definitely a lot more fundraising than we’ve ever done, because it’s gonna cost so much more to go to Florida,” Forbes said.
“We do food fundraisers every week, like we coordinate with different food places. Like this week was Buffalo Wild Wings and we fundraised a lot of money, just based on that when people order and say they’re with Lee’s Summit West,” Forbes said. She said they also sold candy bars, a text-a-thon, and a car wash.
While all of this fundraising was done before their first competition, Senior Alyssa Hurt, who’s on the competition squad, said this year has been “a working and learning process” when it comes to finding funds. Hurt said, “I think that is a situation that our coaches are able to handle, and it is all very new to us girls and coaches because we did raise so much money for nationals, not knowing we had to have a bid.”
“We did not qualify for nationals at our first regionals, but we did get another opportunity to qualify for a virtual competition…” Forbes said, at which they did earn a qualifying score.
The LSW cheer team has yet to go to nationals since 2015. The decision to go for national gold came from the whole team, but was made possible by head coach Kelsey Miller.
Hurt said, “We athletes did have input on going to nationals, last year this was our dream. We talked to our coach about going to nationals and she made it a choice for us to go after and we did just that!” Having the idea and doing the fundraising to go to nationals is a start, but the true preparations come with practice.
Assistant varsity coach Tatum Branson said this year the team was working hard. “We went into the season super excited to reach this goal [of going to nationals]! The girls attended elite camps this summer, learned choreography from experts and worked hard to perfect technique and skills that they need to,” Branson said.
Hurt said the combination of practice and talent is behind their drive, mentality, and success. “I think that we have a very talented team this year, and nationals was a very good possibility with the amount of talent on our team. I do think because of our talent that it was reasonable for our team to have the mindset of going to nationals this year,” Hurt said.
Branson, though it is only her second year coaching, has a national and emotional connection herself; “I danced through high school and college and was on national placing teams and just couldn’t picture my life without it!” Branson said.
This year is especially important to Hurt and Forbes, as it’s their final year of high school competition. “I just want to see my team have fun and enjoy the sport that we love the most, cheer. This is my senior year … I just want to continue to have a close bond with my team and have fun. I love every girl on my team so much,” Hurt said.
Branson said that she has gotten closer with the team and is proud of them. “Overall, we are grateful that we have parents that continue to support our program through fundraising and supporting the girls at different events throughout the year. This sport and its dedication year-round is something not all people can do, so we are just proud and glad that we have the girls we do!” Branson said.