School spirit abounds as cheerleading returns to North


For the first time in 18 years, North High School has a cheerleading team for football season. The cheerleaders first performed at the season’s opening game Aug. 30, and thanks to their early success, they were offered opportunities to perform at the Minnesota State Fair and North St. Paul’s Fall Round-Up Parade. submitted photo

The North High School cheerleading team began with the goal of raising school spirit. Team members worked hard over the summer to prepare a routine to be performed with stunts at football games. The next games they will perform at are scheduled for Sept. 21 and Oct. 17. submitted photo

The beginning of another school year brings new school supplies, new classes and new schedules, and sometimes, a new cheerleading team.

This year, North High School football games will be brimming with school spirit as the first fall-season cheerleading team in 18 years makes its debut.

Head cheerleading coach Jill Schoneberger, a former North cheerleader herself with 14 years of coaching experience, explained that 2000 was the last year a cheer program was offered at the high school, until student Autumn Tuhy started a petition in June 2017 to bring the sport back.

Although there were a few hiccups along the way, a cheerleading program at North began in November last year, with 55 girls divided between the varsity and junior varsity teams. 53 of those girls had no cheer experience whatsoever, Schoneberger explained, and the teams cheered only at boys basketball games.

“Basketball season was mainly just, you know, cheering. They did learn a few stunts, but it was pretty much the basics,” Schoneberger said, adding that the 2018 fall season team, made up of 12 girls who started on the winter season team, practiced six hours a day, three days a week over the summer to prepare for performances during football games.

Schoneberger noted that the crowd at the first game of the season on Aug. 30 seemed quite surprised when the cheerleaders whipped out “a wicked routine,” complete with stunts. 

“I didn’t expect the crowd to react the way they did,” she said.

So far, the most difficult stunt the cheerleaders have done is the suspended flip, which involves a flyer being thrusted into the air and flipping her body over another cheerleader standing in front of her.

“They actually perfected it, and they actually did it on cement at the State Fair, so they felt confident,” Schoneberger said. The team performed cheers, stunts and dancing in the fair’s daily parade.

Schoneberger added that the team’s sudden success has led to even more opportunities, such as being recruited to promote SMW Financial Credit Union in North St. Paul’s Fall Round-Up Parade Sept. 13.

 

Raising school spirit

Tuhy, a senior this fall, said that she started the petition for the cheerleading team “because a lot of girls at my school wanted to become cheerleaders, and I felt like my voice would be heard. Also, I started it because we didn’t really have a lot of support at our football games very much, and I felt like we needed more school spirit.”

She added that she hoped the team would bring girls together at school and provide an opportunity for people who were shy to be able to make friends.

School District 622 Superintendent Christine Osorio noted that in general, cheerleading seems to be making a comeback as a sport.

“It is cool that it was kind of student initiated, and they love doing it, and they’ve been really active in a lot of our sporting events, so it’s turned out to be a really cool thing, but it’s not the only group that started that way,” Osorio said. 

She explained that several sports and other groups in the district began as clubs initiated by students who took an interest. The lacrosse and trap shooting teams are two examples.

“It starts with a few kids and then an advisor who wants to support them, and then it starts off as a voluntary club and they often go into sometimes bigger clubs and organizations or competitive organizations and that’s what happened with cheerleading,” Osorio said.

“Actually they have been really successful. People love the team,” she added.

Schoneberger said that the high school community can expect to see cheerleaders working to bring back school spirit this season, adding that the fall season team is currently working on new skills to add to their performances.

The community can also expect to see the winter season cheerleading team at both boys basketball and hockey games this school year.

For now, the fall and winter cheerleading teams are sideline-only teams, meaning they do not compete against other cheerleading teams, though Schoneberger said she believes that’s the direction the fall team is moving. She added that to her knowledge, North has never competed in cheerleading, making that possibility even more exciting.

“This year, we might go to one [competition] just so the girls can see what it’s like, but we’re hoping that next year we’ll be able to kind of get more into the competition side of it,” Schoneberger said. 

The next home football games the Polars cheerleaders will perform at will be Sept. 21 and Oct. 17. 

Said Schoneberger, “This group of 12 girls is amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”

 

– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com

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