The St. Michael-Albertville Cheer Team knew it was poised to have a strong competitive and sideline season in 2011-2012, just by looking at the top.
Leading the way was 2011 UDA Coach of the Year Becky Stephens, and a duo of strong returning captains to both the sideline and competitive squad in Talaya Kautz and Jenna Hennen, both juniors.
They proved it last weekend, as the Knights took first out of six teams at in the AA Division of the Great Minnesota Cheer Off, hosted by the Minnesota Cheerleading Assocation at Anoka High School.
"It's a group that's worked very hard in the offseason. We've had camps and drills and worked with each other throughout the summer. It's going to be an exciting year for this squad," said coach Becky Stephens.
St. Michael-Albertville topped White Bear Lake, last year's champs, with its football sideline squad. With both Kautz and Hennen on board, the team is building off the best season it has ever had (2010-2011), and hopes to get better.
"I think it's getting easier for us as we get older and more practice. But it takes everyone," Kautz said. "We still want to get better in AA. We want to grow and show that we can compete with all these schools."
STMA placed third in the state competition last season, and second in its region.
The Cheer Off Championships will take place Saturday, Oct. 15 at Concordia University in St. Paul. White Bear Lake and Anoka's football squads, along with three cheer squads that will compete this week and advance, will fight for the state's top team.
The winner gets a trophy, individual medals and the chance to cheer at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus for the Minnesota All Star Football Game in June 2012.
"We've worked hard," Hennen said. "We've got more than 118 cheers right now that we know. All the stunts require everyone's concentration and participation. I think the biggest misinterpretation about cheer is that it's so easy anyone could do it. It's harder than it looks."
"I think people, once they watch us, respect that as much as they do the 'regular' sports," Kautz added.
You can catch the football cheer team in action Friday night as they cheer at the homecoming game, beginning at 7 p.m.
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