Ready to conquer state

Service-oriented Kentwood High cheerleaders prepare to defend title.

Every detail counts for Kentwood High’s cheerleaders.

The team is preparing for the Jan. 26 Cheerleading State Championships at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmunson Pavilion on the University of Washington campus, and the Conquerors have their eyes on taking home gold.

Kentwood, which fields both tumbling and non-tumbling cheer squads, qualified both for the state meet earlier this year at a competition where they scored 241 and 264 points, respectively  — it only takes 175 to qualify.

Watching the team in the gym, where they practice tumbling passes and stunts over and over again, it is clear that this is a team out to win. Every move must be sharp, every transition perfect — if not they do it again. Every bobble or missed count will cost the team precious points at the state competition.

At State the teams will be judged on their effectiveness as crowd leaders and tumbling, jumps and motions as well as execution.

One stunt that the tumbling squad has worked to perfect as the competition approaches is called a double up.

“It’s an advanced move,” said head coach Kim Kawachi. “We’re the only high school, that I know of, doing it.”

The team practices between nine and 12 hours each week, Kawachi said. They lead cheering at football and basketball games and volunteer at other sports’ competitions.

Community service is also a big part of the team’s culture. Last fall the team organized and hosted a carnival at Covington Elementary where every student was given a backpack and school supplies.

“They’re amazing students and good leaders,” Kawachi said. “They’ll go above and beyond for each other and the community.”

The team hopes to advance to the national competition later this year in Orlando, Fla. The team has placed as high as second at nationals and has finished in the top 10 the last 6 years. A year ago the Conks cheer squads did well at the state competition, too. Kentwood Silver won the 4A co-ed title, edging out Stadium by four points with 249. Kentwood Black took second in the non-tumbling 4A category, with 218 points to Bothell’s first-place showing of 234.

Co-captains Riana Slyter and Brooke Chase agree that competing and serving their community is what they love most about cheerleading.

For Chase one of the most memorable events the team participated in this year was the Rock n’ Roll marathon.

“We were up at 4 a.m. and cheered on the runners,” Chase said. “We could see how appreciative they (the runners) were.”

Another event the Kentwood cheerleaders organized in the fall was Conks for a Cure, which culminated in the pink out game against Kent-Meridian to help raise money for breast cancer charities.

Through a number of means such as sales of pink merchandise and donation collections, the team raised $3,500.

“There’s a sense of being a part of something greater,” Slyter said. “It’s such a great team.”