Evart cheerleaders pleased with progress

EVART — The critical weeks for competitive cheer teams are coming up and two of Evart’s top performer are optimistic with their team’s outlook.

Junior Courtney Bledden is in her third year of high school competitive cheer.

“I did it my seventh and eighth-grade years,” she said. “You do a lot more skills in varsity cheer than in middle school. Middle school is really important. That’s where you learn all the basics. Hopefully, they teach you right.”

Evart has scored impressively in recent meets.

“We’re slowly improving,” Bledden said. “We have a really good team. We had to kind of start from the bottom and go up. We got second at competition (at Chippewa Hills) on Saturday.”

She indicated that Round 3 has been strong for the Wildcats. It’s the round that features mounts and stunts.

“It’s our saving round,” Bledden said. “Without it, we’d be in a lot of trouble right now.”

Competitive cheer meets consist of three performance rounds. Round 1 consists of leadership skills and two required jumps. The second round employs various skills and gymnastics while Round 3 deals with stunts and mounts.

Bledden is hopeful that the Wildcats will be able to compete for post-season honors and do well in the upcoming district meet.

“The top four teams in districts get to go to regionals,” she said. “That would be a real good accomplishment. You have to put more work into it than the other teams are. We’re trying.”

Ashley French, a sophomore, has also been having a strong season for the Wildcats in her first year of competitive cheer. She had done sideline cheer in the past.

“Sideline cheer is a lot of fun but we mostly use cheers in it and not as many routines,” French said. “Our round 3 is really great. Round 2 is not our strong suit. Everyone has to be perfectly together. That’s the one we need to get our energy levels back in.”

Round 3 demands “team bonding, timing, strength and endurance to be able to yell throughout the entire thing,” French said. “We’ve come a long way. Many girls don’t come in with very high jumps or their splits weren’t touching the ground.”

Getting a first place at Marion and placing at Chippewa Hills have been among the team highlights so far, French noted.

A former flyer, French is now a back base for her team.

“I feel more comfortable on the ground,” she laughed.

Bledden has been a flyer for Evart. She also runs track and is on dance teams.

As for competitive cheer, “you have to enjoy the sport to do it,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work and working with others.”

Bledden is hoping she and her teammates will go to gymnastics camps during the offseason to have a chance to work on their skills.

French also runs track with the long jump and hurdles.

Track and cheerleading “are about the same but it takes different strengths in both sports, French said. More of her time is “probably” spent in cheer, she said.

For the remainder of the season, French is hoping to see the team bonding process continue.

Districts are this Saturday at home. The top four teams advance to regionals.

The Wildcats were fourth in action last Thursday at Gaylord and last Saturday at Houghton Lake.

“We made some changes on Thursday,” said Evart coach Marty Pattee. “We had a good round 1 on Saturday. It was a big meet, a big day. Having so much downtime between rounds did hurt.”