Taylor Hansen and Sydney Finkbohner perform stunts from the nationals routine. The Steamboat Springs High School cheerleading team heads to nationals Thursday in Orlando, Fla.

Shannon Keesee/courtesy

Taylor Hansen and Sydney Finkbohner perform stunts from the nationals routine. The Steamboat Springs High School cheerleading team heads to nationals Thursday in Orlando, Fla.

Steamboat Springs High School cheerleaders headed to Florida for nationals

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— The Steamboat Springs High School cheerleading team previously had qualified for nationals three times, but each year, the cost and planning were too burdensome.

After the team finished its competitive season last year, it made a pact: This would be the year the team went.

“It was not something where I was the ringleader,” coach Shannon Keesee said. “I said, ‘If you want to go, I’ll go.’ It was really on the parents and boys and girls on the team. This shows the volume of their dedication and the drive to want to go. They had to dedicate themselves to their skill level and raising money. It wasn’t just dedicated to the skill; they were very dedicated outside of cheer practice.”

So it will be. The cheerleading team departs Thursday for Orlando, Fla., where the team will compete in the coed, Division II competition. The Division II category is for schools with less than 1,600 students, and the small coed division includes teams with less than four boys.

Last year, 26 teams from across the country competed in the division. Steamboat is the only team from Colorado competing in the division this year.

Keesee has watched the finals from last year and said the competition will be some of the best Steamboat has seen.

The team qualified for nationals by way of its third-place finish at the UCA Mile High regionals in November.

“The challenge is to get to finals,” said Keesee, noting about half of the teams from the division made it to finals. “We can’t make any errors if we get there. There is pressure, but at the same time, it’s a lifetime experience.”

The team already has faced some difficulties in the past two weeks. The team is without regulars Hanna Pagliaro and Lacey Lewis, who suffered injuries. In their places, Annie Martin and Abby Burns will compete.

Because of the injuries, the team has had to redesign and revamp its routine.

The team will compete in the semifinals Saturday morning. If the team advances, the finals are Saturday evening.

“All year, our routine has changed a lot, but especially this week with two girls getting hurt,” senior Guerin Lewis said. “It’s been hard with that. But it’s ended up working out really well. It’s not like we can’t do it.”

Certainly not after the fundraising the team did. After deciding the team wanted to go to nationals, fundraising efforts were ramped up.

During the summer the team painted faces at the Mainstreet Farmers Market and at the Free Summer Concert Series. It ran bake sales and concessions at most of the fall and winter sports as well as a clinic for young cheerleaders.

“Anything we could do to fund raise, we picked up and did,” senior Sydney Finkbohner said. “The community has been a great help to us.”

With help from parents, the administration and the Booster Club, the team will take 18 cheerleaders and two coaches to nationals.

“We’re happy of what we’ve accomplished,” senior Brandi Salazar said. “We’ve been working really hard for this whole thing. We’ve been training for four or five months.”

Those traveling to Orlando include: Allison Williams, Salazar, Brooke Bumgarner, Carly Hanley, Colton Lewer, Connor O'Brien, Lewis, Casey Williams, Martin, Kate Jankoski, Burns, Miranda Salky, Finkbohner, Taylor Hansen, Kiayvah Ondrey, Reagan Mertz, Ainslee Yeager and Reina Salky.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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