What does it take to become a two-time state champion cheerleading team? Well, for one thing, hard work. And skill. And self-motivation. And enthusiasm. And commitment. Those qualities and many more are found in the 30 girls who participated on this year’s cheerleading squad at Morgan High School.
Three weeks ago, the MHS cheer team won its second consecutive 3A state championship, capturing the top spot in the Varsity All-Girl Show Cheer category – by far the most competitive category in the Utah Cheer Club state competition.
“This team is extremely hard-working and very disciplined,” MHS coach Sue Ann Kelsey said. “They are very committed. They are willing to put in extra practices to make sure that we are ready to do our very best. They’re go-getters and they are very motivated. A lot of them do extra things in school as well, so they’re motivated in everything they do, not just cheer. They’re a very good team.”
Unlike other sports teams, the cheerleaders go virtually year-round. Tryouts for the team actually take place before the end of the school year. They then practice all summer long, and before you know it, it’s football season. They also cheer at volleyball games, boys’ and girls’ basketball games, and wrestling matches. In the middle of all that, they’re preparing for their own competition season, which runs through December and January.
Early mornings, late nights, long road trips, and hours and hours of practice. They might be petite, but these are 30 of the strongest teenage girls found at Morgan High. And by the time they reach their senior year, it’s hard for coaches to watch them leave.
“I don’t know if people realize how attached coaches get to their players,” Kelsey said. “With cheer we do so much because we start in April and we go a full year. We do service projects together, cheer camp, senior retreat, competitions. It literally is blood, sweat and tears. They’re just such cute girls and it’s hard every year to see them go.”
But for the second year in a row, they went out as champions. But it was not easy. Just two days before the state competition, a key member of the team, junior Maddie Porter, suffered an injury that forced her out of the competition. The injury caused coaches to make significant changes to the routine, including inserting freshman Courtney Wubker into Porter’s spot.
Putting a young girl in a new spot, in a new stunting position could have resulted in disaster for a lesser-prepared team. But Morgan is not one of those teams.
The coaches called an emergency practice for Friday night so that Webker could learn the new position and make sure she knew where she was going on the floor.
“On Friday morning, she was put in (the routine) and the next day we were at state,” Kelsey said. “She literally had one day to learn it.”
When it was the Trojans’ turn to perform, several of the cheerleaders were still struggling with Porter’s absence.
“That was hard for the team,” Kelsey said. “When we did our cheer to go out and take the floor, (Maddie) had some tears, and so did some of the girls. It broke my heart. It was very sad. Maddie’s very talented and to take her out was a huge hit.”
So how did the performance turn out?
“It was flawless,” Kelsey said. “Courtney did a phenomenal job. They all did a fantastic job. Every girl did their part to their very best. It was great.”
Even though Kelsey knew the team had done well, she was still plenty anxious as the trophies were being awarded.
“Me and (fellow coach Ben Nagai) were looking at my watch and my heart rate was 128,” Kelsey said. “I was so nervous for awards. I was getting my cardio in just sitting on the bench.”
When the Trojans were announced as the 3A champs, nervousness changed to elation.
“I almost think the girls were more excited than last year,” Kelsey said. “We were so nervous because of the injury. But winning state is a phenomenal feeling. You work all year for that one moment.”
For the second straight year, Nagai choreographed the winning routine. Nagai is a brilliant and powerful tumbler and has been on Weber State’s cheer team as well as the Utah Jazz stunt team. Mikarie Sargent and Bailey Kelsey also helped with choreography and cleaning the routine.
Members of this year’s team include seniors MaKinley Beardall, Kenadi Bigelow, Natalie Crowther, Ellie Johnson, Emma Johnson, Kiah Jones, and Abby Larsen; juniors Laci Cameron, Saydra Galloway, Hannah Jones, Kenidee Kelsey, Emma Mangum, Bree Nelson, Preslee Norman, Maddie Porter, Rebecca Russell, Sydnee Wirth; sophomores Millee Breshears, Isabelle Cook, Brinley Lance, Devyn Larsen, Emily Quigley, Justine Wilson; freshmen Brextyn Bice, Brightyn Bond, Kenzie Day, Kendra Helsten, Elle Nelson, Nicole Nelson, and Courtney Wubker.