- June 30, 2021
At the Southeast regional cheer competition, everything that could go right for the Horizon West Wolverines 12U cheer team did.
After two-and-a-half minutes of dance, stunts and cheers, the team walked away overcome by emotion. The girls knew how big of a moment they had just had.
“They came off the floor crying because they were so happy,” head coach Theresa Hayes said. “Their stunts went up, they didn’t drop anything, and they were on time.”
By the time everything was said and done, the squad sat there on the gym floor at Seminole High School and waited for the awards to be announced.
Then, the Wolverines heard the news they had been hoping for — they had won first-place overall.
“Everybody was just losing their minds,” Hayes said. “They were excited and happy.”
Following the event, there was also a dance-off amongst the cheer dads, as well. And you know who took home first place? A cheer dad from Horizon West — making the Wolverines two-for-two on trophies for the day.
And not only had the Wolverines won first place — which came with a trophy as big as some of the girls — but by finishing top three, they also sealed up a place at nationals in Kissimmee at Silver Spurs Arena Dec. 14.
The win was impressive, and it’s a real highlight when you consider how young the program is and how inexperienced many of the girls were coming into the cheer season.
Hayes first got to work with her girls just four weeks prior to the start of the Wolverines’ football season — which began back on Aug. 31 — and things were a bit rough, to say the least.
She and the other coaches had to work on everything from basic cheering to stunts. It was a process that required time and patience, Hayes said.
“Most of them never cheered before — they didn’t even know the first thing about cheerleading, and now here they are tossing their teammates in the air with no problem,” Hayes said. “After a couple of weeks of practice I go, ‘Look at the person next to, you and tell me what their name is, and they didn’t even know each other’s names. And I go, ‘Girls, that’s all going to change — by the time we go through all of these practices, it’s going to feel like you’ve always had these girls in your life.’
“They’ve all connected and formed this bond,” she said. “It’s just been tremendous to watch them grow — it’s the best part.”
The growth since the start of the season can easily be seen, but that didn’t mean there weren’t butterflies going into the regional. For most of the girls on the team, this was their first big cheer event, so they weren’t sure how things would go.
As we know now, things went perfectly, but that regional win was just a step toward something bigger — which will take a bit more practicing, thanks in part to some early obstacles that have popped up for the Wolverines.
“We lost a couple of girls because they’re out of town and couldn’t even compete, and with me having the flu this week, we haven’t been able to practice once,” Hayes said. “In cheer, it happens — it’s to be expected that you have to have a backup plan.”
Hayes said that the squad will be upping its practice time starting this week to prepare for nationals.
But while it’s a time to hunker down and get serious, it’s not lost on her that this upcoming competition is more than just competing — it’s about building a sisterhood and giving these girls moments they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.
“I think this is absolutely where I should be with cheerleading,” Hayes said. “Taking these girls — who had never done it before — and bringing them to competition is the best feeling in the whole world. I’m so proud of them, and I just want to get them all of those experiences and amazing memories that I had from cheerleading.”