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By KATHRYN EINSTEIN
For the Paxton Record
BLOOMINGTON — The cheerleaders performed Friday in hopes to be the first squad in PBL history to make it to the finals.
The Monday before, the squad had to switch out their main flyer that had been working in the routine since November. Amanda Diesburg stepped in during the stunt sequence and Kylie Mercer in for the basket toss, single base stunt, and the pyramid.
These changes were made four days prior to state, which was a big challenge for the girls knowing how difficult it is to replace a flyer with such short notice.
The squad pulled together and overcame this obstacle. With one of the largest crowds at state, their fan section cheered on the cheerleaders. Each stunt hit and the girls held their head high.
The routine was solid and showed the hard work the girls had put into the routine this season. They showed not only themselves, but their family and peers just how strong they were.
Paxton-Buckley-Loda was announced in the top 10 and asked to come back for the second day of state. This season’s motto, “Hard Work, Pays Off,” ran through their minds yet another day.
The second day was less pressure for the girls. This time they decided they would have fun and enjoy this experience.
Day-one scores were 81.8 and day-two was 82.48.
“It is a much lower score than our sectional score, (which was an 86.8),” PBL head coach Amber Weber said. “I expected it. It is not upsetting for us. We are so proud of Kylie Mercer and Amanda Diesburg for coming in last minute and pulling the stunts off. Of course it wouldn’t be perfect, since they only had 4 days to learn, but it was even better than I anticipated. Not too many squads are able to pull off what they did as a team.”
The state final scores were first-place Dwight with 87.2 points, second-place Taylor Ridge with 87 and third-place Breese Centrla with 85.42.
If PBL received the score they had at sectionals (86.8), they would have taken home a state trophy.
“The lessons learned this week were more beneficial to our program than a third-place trophy,” Weber said.
A few stars stood out this weekend. Kristen Batte and Melanie Foss threw outstanding synchronized layouts, and Kristen moved forward and to throw a full that wowed the crowd.
Jordan Nijim, Kristen Batte, and Aubrey Glazik contributed with near-perfect jumps, making a double-toe touch look easy.
It takes physical strength in order to lift a person in the air for long periods of time. Jordan Nijim, Cacie Ekstrom, Haylee Heisler, and Megan Schoonveld kept the stunts from falling this past weekend.
Junior flyer Paxton Johnson rode a basket toss high and hit a kick full. This surely gave the Panthers their high score on baskets.
Paige Adkins contributed to the squad by not only her all around talent in cheerleading, but her attitude throughout the season.
“A positive attitude is what I look for in a cheerleader,” Weber said. “It’s a must when having 16 girls around each other three to four hours a day, six to seven days a week, nine months a year.”
Along with the dedication and hard work from the squad, this year’s success came from Weber’s training techniques.
Senior Jordan Nijim said Weber would get on all fours and watch the jumps from the ground. She would yell, “jump higher ladies.”
“Coaching cheer is a lot of work and very time consuming, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it,” Weber said when asked if she enjoyed her first year of coaching at a high-school level. “We are family and I care for them like my own.”
The community should be very proud of the PBL cheerleading program not only for making it to state five years in a row, but also for giving so much to the area.
Each year, the cheerleaders volunteer at a summer carnival, give their time to JFL cheer practices, host a JFL camp, host two junior cheer camps, volunteer at the Fourth of July festivities at Pells Park, and cheer at 40 football and basketball games a year.
This Saturday, the junior cheerleaders will perform during halftime of the junior varsity game against GCMS.
It is also Senior Night.
The cheerleaders will showcase a new routine during halftime at the varsity game. Come out and support the girls and the basketball team this Saturday.