The spice behind the spirit

Juniors Sydney Patterson, Erica Whipple, Tierney McPike, and sophomore Tearyn Wilson stretch in a circle to prepare for Pacer tryouts

Hope Wilke

Juniors Sydney Patterson, Erica Whipple, Tierney McPike, and sophomore Tearyn Wilson stretch in a circle to prepare for Pacer tryouts

I’ve been dancing for many years, and this year I received the opportunity to try out for the 2016-17 Pacers dance team at North Platte High School. At the time that I began writing this story, I was only considering trying out. I ended up going through with it, and received the honor of making the squad. Now I’m here to provide a behind-the-scenes look based on my perspective and what I’ve learned about cheer leading and Pacers at NPHS.

The tryout process is very secluded. Everyone must wear the same clothing, hair up, and makeup, and are identified only by the number they are assigned to. Before tryouts begin, the participants are divided up into small groups of three or four. The groups go in one at a time to perform in front of only the judge panel and the other girls in their small group.

The process involves demonstrating a number of individual skills, performing a group routine, and another short piece that they choreograph themselves. The dancers must demonstrate more dance skills during tryouts, while the cheerleaders focus on demonstrating group and individual cheers, jumps and tumbling, and a chant.

With anything that requires putting yourself out there, pressure is expected. The anxiety of cheer and Pacers begins with rehearsing for tryouts. “Tryouts put pressure on you because it’s the first impression you make,” said freshman and future Pacer, Riley Smith. The pressure doesn’t stop there. If you make the squad, you’re expected to attend all early morning practices before school, and you must work hard to obtain the maximum skill level to to nail the routines and school spirit in front of the entire student body.

One huge pressure for cheerleaders and Pacers alike is rising to expectations. Junior cheerleader Morgan Libsack said handling the cheer season can pose a lot of stress. “We’re in charge of things throughout the year, like homecoming, Pink Out, signs, pep, rallies, clinics, and tryouts, along with standard cheering at games. People expect a lot from us, so we’re under a lot of pressure to fulfill their expectations.”

When either squad steps out in front of the school and community to perform, their minds are racing with the knowledge of what people expect to see. “Students, teachers, and parents have big expectations that we have to live up to,” said Smith. Junior Pacer Courtney Pelland said that facing judgment from peers puts a lot of stress on the performers. Both squads must work their hardest day in and day out in order to rise to the expectations and knock their performances out of the park.

In addition to expectations, the student body and community form opinions about both the cheerleaders and Pacers. “Some people see cheer leading as just a popularity contest, but I don’t see it as that. I love being a part of cheer and being involved in encouraging school spirit,” said freshman cheerleader Katy Greene. As for the dance team, Pelland said the main misunderstanding people have is what a challenging sport dance is and how much practice it takes to succeed. “Dance is one of the sports that takes the most endurance, and it definitely isn’t as easy as it looks,” Pelland said.

The teams have high expectations for themselves as well. Greene’s expectations for next year’s cheer season are to “have a close relationship with each other, grow together as a team, be accountable, and improve daily.” Pelland said “I want us to be a hardworking group who is willing to take on any challenges that are handed to us.” Pelland wants to show the world what this year’s Pacer team is capable of accomplishing.

At the end of the day, both cheerleaders and Pacers endure far more than most people would assume. So what makes the pressure, hard work, and sacrifice worth it? For some, it’s the pure love of performing. “Learning dances isn’t my favorite, but I like getting out in front of a crowd to perform and have fun,” said Smith. For others, it’s all about the team dynamic. “Cheer leading means being apart of a team and building good friendships with other girls, along with being involved in and representing your school,” said Greene. Pelland does it for strong bond she can already sense in this year’s Pacer team. “After tryouts I sensed the feeling that we were already becoming closer… having a close team means we will work well with one another. It’s going to be an exciting year for the Pacers,” she said.

Whether it be the love of performing, the passion for school spirit, tumbling, or dance, or the lifelong bonds being formed, every cheerleader and dancer has a reason for doing what they do. As goals are reached, and challenges overcome, all the hard work becomes worth it. That is exactly what both squads expect to happen in this upcoming year.