Still cheering for the home team | PostIndependent.com

Still cheering for the home team

Phil SandovalPost Independent Staff

BOULDER – Cheerleading and silence are rare partners. But in this case, Glenwood Springs has quietly become the hot spot for college cheer coaches to find new athletes for their squads.Currently, five Glenwood Springs High School graduates have continued their cheer careers at colleges in Colorado. Molly Ackerman and Tessie Tracy, 2002 GSHS grads, and ’06 graduate Hannah Greenstreet are members of the University of Colorado’s cheer squad. Paige Burger, a high school teammate of Ackerman and Tracy, is starting her third year as a Colorado State cheerleader. Angela Gabriel, another ’04 grad, performs on the sidelines for Division II Mesa State College in Grand Junction.Since Lauren Brigham became the first GSHS grad to make CU’s squad six years ago, 10 more Demon cheerleaders, including the current crop, have found their way onto college teams. It’s an impressive number for any high school program. It’s even more remarkable considering team coaches Kim Richardson, Lynn Goluba and Jody Jordan annually groom state champion and national-level teams minus the lack of a feeder program at younger levels.

The success that the graduates have had in cheerleading, Ackerman said, are based from a combination of items.”I think it completely reflects on support of the community, our families and of our coaches,” she said. “At Glenwood Springs High School, Its an environment where you are able to succeed. I feel that us being here is really a testament to everyone who’s pushed us to get here.”Tracy, who joined the CU squad a couple of weeks ago, agrees.”I think a lot of why we’re here today is the program we came from. It’s so successful and it taught us a lot,” she said. “(The high school program) is not only about cheerleading, but about everything we’re going to do in life.”Nine of the 11 graduates were members on one or more of the Demons’ state champion squads in high school. Tracy and 2003 graduate Michelle Whiddon became summer camp instructors for the Universal Cheerleading Association. Courtney McCallum, a member of the 2003-04 state champion teams, has been on staff the past two years at Spirit Xpress West, an all-star cheerleading gym in New Mexico. Carly McCallum was an assistant coach at Mesa State last year after cheering for the University of Montana.”Having 11 graduates cheer in college is amazing,” said Whiddon. “Although, I’m not surprised since we all went to gymnastics together. The reason is the coaches for sure.”After earning an athletic scholarship and ensuing two-year career at Coffeeville (Kan.) Community College, Whiddon has matriculated to Evangline University in Springfield, Miss.

An annual college recruiting fair on the Front Range combined with the high school’s competition success, said Richardson, made college coaches aware of Glenwood’s seniors. “The state of Colorado has gotten more involved with cheerleading, and college coaches have become more aware of our program,” the coach explained.”The (coaches) can’t recruit girls, but they are more aware of our program,” she said. “I think that gives our girls more confidence as alumni have gone on and cheered in college. I think that’s really been the biggest thing. Then our alumni come back and talk with and talk to these girls about what it’s like to cheer in a college program.”

It also gives members of the current squad an opportunity to watch the grads on television.”Paige showed us a tape of her squad at camp. I was trying to look for her. And, it was like ‘Wow – she’s still cheerleading,'” said current high school squad member Jessica Rosa. “What’s going through my head is it’s amazing to see someone who came from never cheering or tumbling before to doing something that amazing and great,” junior Allie Westhoff added. “It makes me inspired to do great things, too.”The five Demon grads said that influence and help from former squad mates aided in their quests to cheer in college. “It was definitely a motivation watching Megan (McGrath) first, then Molly cheer and knowing that it was possible that I could do it,” said Greenstreet. “I was definitely pushed and inspired to join them.”Ackerman didn’t make the cut on her first try at CU. With guidance from McGrath, she was ready the next time a spot became open.”There was a lot of ins and outs of (the CU) program and how to tryout and compete at this level I wasn’t aware of,” Ackerman said. “Your coaches can prepare you – and they do a great job – but there’s certain aspects of college life you don’t know about until you do it. And Megan was a gracious guide to learning about collegiate-level sports and what kind of personal drive it takes to succeed at this level.”

Richardson and the coaches welcome the opportunity to watch their former students in action. What’s most important, Richardson said, is seeing the grads bloom individually.”What gives us more gratification is seeing our graduates go on to become successful young adults. Obviously, college and a college education are very important to us. That’s more important than anything,” the coach said.”The fact they can continue to pursue a sport they are passionate about at another level is very gratifying and a great experience for them. But the most important thing is they are carrying on with a college education.”Even though the fan base and stage has grown, all three of the former Demons at CU retain a strong connection toward home. “We’re all a part of this team, but we’re still representing Glenwood Springs,” said Tracy. “It instills a sense of pride to know that’s the program that we all came from.” “There’s athletes from other schools from the Western Slope, kids from Rifle, Grand Junction and Palisade that are doing great things as well,” Ackerman added.”As Western Slopers, we kind of have a little chip on our shoulders that we’re out to prove something. When you see someone like Amber Sutherland (a starter on CU’s volleyball team) who had huge success at the prep level, and comes in and dominate at the Division I level as well, all we can do is feel pride because she’s out there killing it, because she can – It’s a Western Slope pride thing.”