NRHEG cheer team crowned academic state champion
SUCCESS AT STATE — The NRHEG High School competition cheer team finished third on the floor and were crowned academic state champions in Saturday’s state competition at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul. Front from left: Brenna Hagen, Kiley Beenken, Lexi Wayne, Tiara Robran, Brina Bergland, Miss Minnesota and Michaela Hansen. Back: Jadyn Nelson- Spies, Hannah Lewison, Tara Simon, Emmy Hobbs, Hailey Johnson, Stormi Hagen, Harlee Voukon, Dana Jensen, Maddy Schierjohann and Presley Johnson. Missing is Hannah Light. (Submitted photo)
By JIM LUTGENS
After countless hours of practice, practice, practice, it all came down to one routine for the NRHEG High School competition cheer team.
They nailed it.
But, more importantly, they aced it where it counts most: the classroom.
Their routine was good for third place for the defending champions, who competed against much larger schools in Saturday’s State Cheerleading competition at Roy Wilkins Arena in St. Paul.
But that was just the start.
The Panthers were recognized as not only the regional academic champions, but posted the highest grade point average of any cheer team in the state.
“It was better than any first-place trophy,” said coach Kari Buendorf. “This is quite exciting as it shows that not only on the sidelines and on the competition floor do these girls have determination, but also in the classroom.”
Before the girls took the competition floor for the last time this season, they were also awarded and recognized with individual honors. Lexi Wayne and Michaela Hansen were named to the Honor Team of Excellence for leadership and academics.
It was then announced that Michaela was the winner of a $1,000 scholarship from the Minnesota Cheer Coaches Association.
The last award was state coach of the year. It went to Buendorf.
Coach Buendorf was nominated by her team and the parents for this honor and was humbled by the recognition.
“Being up for this award was quite the honor,” said Buendorf. “I would like to thank the parents and cheerleaders who have supported this program throughout the years.”
On the floor, NRHEG competed in the non-tumbling, medium-size division along with teams that included Apple Valley, Brainerd and Minnetonka.
“The team had the performance of the year,” said Buendorf.
“This group of girls has worked extremely hard as the routines and the competition continue to get more difficult and push them more every year. Dedication, teamwork, strength, flexibility and overcoming many injuries are part of the sport. These girls worked through all the hurdles and proved on Saturday what this team was really made of. Competing against schools much larger than them is what pushes them to do better. The communities of New Richland, Hartland, Ellendale, and Geneva were very well represented and the girls made them proud.”
NRHEG senior Hailey Johnson sang the National Anthem before the competition.
Among comments by NRHEG girls:
“Before competing I was nervous and anxious, as it was our last shot to prove ourselves. After competing I was excited and overjoyed as we pulled it off and sad that was the last time I would be performing with this group of girls on the competition floor.”
“We were determined to stick every stunt and were emotional knowing this was the biggest performance. But, we knew that we were all in this as a team. We were extremely pumped.”
“I felt that we accomplished our best routine and knew that all the hard work we put in paid off. We went all out and left nothing on the competition floor to regret.”
Said Buendorf, “Cheerleading is not always looked at as a sport, but these girls put many hours in throughout the summer and the school year. The stunts and standing/performing in front of a crowd does not come easy. I applaud my cheerleaders, parents, and fans that support us in all we do. I coach for the love of the sport and the girls who want to make themselves a better athlete and an individual. Standing next to other coaches in Minnesota who love what they do as much as I do was an honor.”
The final performance for this year’s competition team will be Friday, February 10 at the varsity girls’ basketball game against WEM.