The Muskie cheerleading team is looking at expanding its range.
After competing in the cheer division last year, the black-and-gold also has its sights set on both the stunt and dance divisions for the coming year.
The squad began working towards proficiency in all three divisions at tryouts held Friday through Sunday at Fort High.
“We plan on having three different divisions of cheerleading this year: a stunt group, a dance group, and, of course, the regular cheer group,” explained coach Meghan Spooner, who shares the reins with Gillian Piccinato.
“The intention was to get the kids to develop the skills, and we’d be able to pick the groups and find out exactly how we’re going to have our team next year to be competitive,” she added.
The stunt division is one in which performers can be supported in the air by one or more teammates, although some lifts are allowed in the dance division, as well.
In total, 12 girls attended the tryouts, where they developed basic skills needed to become competitive.
“They were working on stunting, they were working on stretching, we were working on basic flexibility and, of course, cheering,” noted Spooner.
She felt the group’s stunt abilities were the most improved elements of the weekend given the foundation of those skills were being incorporated into the tryouts.
“[They performed] basic moves, mostly,” said Spooner. “We had them doing thigh stands, chest, and then V-sit . . . [which is] just being lifted up to chest level, thigh level and, of course, them sitting.
“We had them doing basket tosses, as well, at the very end. . . .
“It’s a way of letting them down from whatever position they’re in at the time.”
A cheer camp for those who attended the tryouts this past weekend is slated for late July in order to reinforce the skills that they learned.
Though the initial round of tryouts is over, Spooner stressed the window for those interested in joining the team hasn’t yet closed, as another round of auditions are scheduled for early in the school year.
“The official season starts in the fall, and we will be opening up yet another tryout for more girls, for girls coming in from the feeder schools, and even guys, actually,” explained Spooner.
“We’re just looking for more people, as always.”
The team doesn’t have a set number of athletes it’s looking for, and primarily is out to recruit capable and committed athletes, said Spooner.
“It would be nice to have a larger-sized team, but it just depends on skill and ability,” she acknowledged.
“We’re not going to take a specific number just for the sake of taking it,” she stressed. “We’re looking for girls or guys with a lot of drive and want to get involved.
“That could make 30 or 40, or that can make 10. It doesn’t matter to us,” Spooner added.
“We just want a team that’s going to work hard and to have a good year.”
Though only females attended last weekend’s tryouts, Spooner said males are welcome to come out, too.
“We’re not closed to males on the team, for sure, and it would be nice to have them out again,” she remarked.
This year’s group looks as though it will have more returning members than the squad has boasted in the past, which means more of the team already will have a solid base to work from early in the year—and should provide assistance to some of the junior members.
“It’s very important because they have the prior skills, so it’s good to have a base to start from,” Spooner stressed.
“Not everybody that came from last year is particularly good at one thing,” she noted. “We can get a diverse range, and then we can get everybody doing something different.”
That said, the group is open to new members, who may be able to kick in some special traits that might not be developed among the current group.
“It’s invaluable to have people who know what they’re doing, but it’s also equally invaluable to see the new people coming in and get different types of skills,” reasoned Spooner.
“Anyone who makes it is expected to guide . . . the goal we have is to work together and to do the best that we can do as a group.”
Ultimately, the team is looking to improve on its third-place showing at the regional championships, which were held in Thunder Bay back in March.
Fort High finished with 162 points in the high school small group – tumbling division.
Spooner noted results aren’t everything, though, and watching the team members progress is a major part, as well.
“We’re not out to win first place, but that’d be nice,” she conceded.
“What we want is for the girls to gain the self-esteem, to gain the confidence, and, of course, to make friends.”