Lynden cheer program creates robust history

Lynden cheer program creates robust history of support
Posted on 11/29/2018

Kellee Wallace has high expectations for the Lynden High School students who serve as a cheerleader. “You made the team and are put in that role as an example of Lynden High School, the Lynden community,” she says. “You are representing yourself, your family, the community. There are girls looking up to the high school girls.”

While Wallace puts a premium on representing the school and the community, the cheer squad has a dual focus: support and competition. Most Lynden High School fans know the cheerleaders as leaders on the sidelines during events, whether football or basketball, but there is also a competition component to the cheerleading squad that adds an extra level of commitment as the team competes across the state.

Each season — cheerleading has two seasons per school year, one in fall and one in winter — Wallace, a 28-year veteran of the position, has a maximum of 16 positions (determined simply by transportation restrictions). To make the squad, cheerleaders must tryout in front of a panel of judges. The students also undergo evaluation by teachers, faculty and administration on everything from how the student respects others to their dependability. This teacher evaluation score accounts for 30 percent of the overall final mark. Wallace and her team of assistant coach Katie Jo Vis and volunteer coach Jeanette Anderson, both former cheerleaders at Lynden, have a set benchmark for the students to meet to make a squad. This year, the LHS cheer squad has 12 for the football season and likely the full 16 for basketball.

Each squad is largely different, as Wallace limits crossover of participating on both squads to four students. “It gives more kids the opportunity to be a cheerleader, it avoids burnout and it is nice to have a fresh squad for basketball season,” she says. “Practice (for basketball) starts in November and if they haven’t cheered for football, they are excited and ready to go. It is a fresh new thing.”

Then, along with the two squads come the competition team, a mixture of anyone interested from the two teams. Volunteer coach Brady Scholten also assists here. The competition season starts prepping in November, steering toward a heavy competition schedule in January and the state cheer competition on Feb. 2. “It pushes the kids and gives them an ultimate goal,” Wallace says. “They are working toward something and it ups our athleticism and improves our stunting. It is a whole different element.”

Bree VanDalen, a captain of the fall squad with Hannah Munkres and captain of the winter squad with Annelise VanWingerden, says the competition team becomes a “time that our team, our cheer squad, gets to compete.” The most sports-driven element of the squads helps the group develop competition and exercise their drive to achieve, get better and succeed. “Competition cheer is where everything is focused on the cheer team, not the school’s sports teams that we cheer on,” she says. “It is a very cool, separate experience to add into our seasons.”

During the seasons, things get busy for the cheerleaders. For example, last year during the height of basketball district playoffs the cheer squad cheered eight nights in a row. “It is nice that the basketball coaches recognize (the commitment) and are very thankful,” Wallace says. Then, in Yakima, the team handled eight games over four days.

But it all comes as part of supporting Lynden High School.

“Being a Lynden cheerleader means bonding and working with a team and group of people who all share the common goal of cheering on our school and teams by leading the crowd with spirit and enthusiasm and creating as much school pride to spread around as possible,” VanDalen says. “It also means getting to perform and show abilities that we have worked hard toward and lots of practice, teamwork, dedication and commitment.”

VanDalen says she understands the team’s role is much larger than just being on the sidelines during a game, whether making s’mores at Lynden Manor, volunteering at Lynden fundraiser events or simply around school.

“When you’re a cheerleader you’re not supposed to only act like it when you need to during a game or an assembly, but all of the time,” she says. “Whether it’s in the hallways, in class or somewhere else in public, the title is with you wherever you go. As a cheerleader part of our job is to cheer others up, be there for others, smile, wave and acknowledge and be kind. Those are the things we should do whenever we find the chance.”