Cheer squads to showcase their talents at PHS exhibition fundraiser
In an effort to raise money for the program’s needs, while celebrating the season and cheering for the state, Philomath High School’s cheer program will host a multi-squad showcase event for the first time on Sunday.
PHS coach Kathy Kohler said the event, which begins at 9 a.m. on Feb. 5, will be an exhibition only with no judges, as it is not sanctioned by the Oregon School Activities Association.
“We really just want to celebrate the team’s successes throughout the season and give them a carefree and relaxed place to show off all of their skills,” said Coach Kohler. “We actually have a lot of teams that are not sanctioned by the OSAA. Because they can’t go to sanctioned events, it’s exciting for them.”
Coach Kohler said late last week that teams confirmed to participate in the event along with Philomath High and Philomath Rec Cheer were squads from Corvallis, La Pine, Sheridan and South Eugene along with West Valley Youth and Newport Royals Youth programs .
Philomath Rec Cheer is a new program that currently includes students in grades four through eight.
“They did really well and are learning a lot and growing,” Coach Kohler said. “I’m hopeful that many of these kids will continue through high school.”
Admission to the “Go For Gold” exhibit is $10 per person with children under the age of 5 free. Vendors and concessions will be on site. There is a ticket upgrade option available for $20 per person, which includes a $5 voucher for swag and access to the event’s VIP lounge.
Money raised at the event will go toward new equipment and tumbling classes for the cheer program.
“We reached our goal for our rugs and they were ordered,” said Coach Kohler, referring to the team’s fundraising project focused on last year. “We now go to PEGA (PEAK Elite Gymnastics Academy in Corvallis) for tumbling classes and so funds will go to help pay for that and for transportation and lodging because we stay overnight when we go to state.” Philomath High’s cheerleaders root on the team during a recent basketball game. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)
A family atmosphere
Philomath High’s cheerleading squad has eight members – senior Ashley Kohler, junior Marit Riese, sophomores Kaylie Kohler, Tatum Pope, Olivia Rice, Ava Webster and Zoe Ringwald, and freshman Josey Schreiber. The Kohler sisters and Pope serve as the team’s co-captains.
“This is a young team again this year that is exciting for the future,” said Coach Kohler. “There is also a lot of learning that is still taking place, but they are responding very well. Most of them came back from last year, so it’s not new for them, but they are growing very well.”
Ashley Kohler said she likes courage the most for the community aspect.
“It’s a really positive environment to be around,” she said, “and it’s really inspiring to see how much passion other cheerleaders have in the same sport as you.”
Kaylie Kohler enjoys the family atmosphere – and she’s not just referring to her mother and sister.
“All of us are very close and we can talk in the sport and outside like during school,” she said. “We are all very friendly with each other so there is no drama between us and I really like that.”
Ava Webster said she has been cheering from a very young age.
“It’s kind of just stuck with me ever since,” she said. “It was just more like another day and you’re doing this and that without it, it’s really weird. That’s why I decided to join cheer when I moved to Philomath.”
Webster moved to Philomath about two weeks before the PHS campus was closed due to COVID.
A year-round activity
The bulk of cheer competition takes place during the winter sports season with the OSAA State Championships taking place on February 11th at Oregon City High School. But cheerleading is a year-round activity with “team placements” happening in June, followed by skill building and camps throughout the summer.
“Then we hit the fall season and do two contests,” Coach Kohler said. “Then we’ll go into a regular competition season for the winter and basketball. Then we’re done when basketball is done and we take our six to eight weeks off and come right back and do it again.”
At the end of the summer, the cheer team holds a mini-camp for the youth. Another activity during the fall is cheering at football games.
The cheer squad practices during a practice last week. (Photo provided by Kathy Kohler)
The competitions in the fall are Oregon Cheerleading Coaches Association meets. Philomath competed in Wild Day Championships on Oct. 8 in Sherwood and finished fifth in its division.
“You start with a tap dance and then they give you a situation in a football game and you have to do an appropriate pep talk for it and you don’t know what’s going to happen until you get there,” Coach Kohler explained. “Then you do a crowd-leading cheer and finish with your fight song. All participating schools must do those four things.”
Philomath also went to an OCCA all-state event Nov. 5 at South Albany.
“I had my first all-state placement with Zoe Ringwald … and my first stunt group ever, they also placed on the all-state team,” Coach Kohler said.
The Warriors competed in the 4A/3A/2A/1A group stunt division and placed fourth. Ringwald was among eight cheerleaders honored on the all-state team at the event.
During the OSAA season, contests began with Springfield on January 7th, Sweet Home on January 14th and Gladstone on January 15th. The Warriors will head to the Tualatin Last Chance Tournament on February 4th before hosting their exhibition on February 5th.
Cheer on each other
Ashley Kohler described a competition day.
“Oh my gosh, you wake up early, my wake up time is 5:30 for most pageants, and you show up at the school pageant ready — makeup done, hair done, everything,” she said. “And then you do a few run-throughs, put the mats away, get on the bus, leave, be there like 8 hours and you wait until your warm-up time … and then you perform and wait for awards. ”
Kaylie Kohler said the team always has a positive reaction after competing.
“It’s just after we get off the mat after we’ve done everything, the first thought isn’t like, ‘Oh my god, what did we do wrong?’ she said. “No, it’s like, what did we do right? Like, what have we accomplished? It’s that exciting moment where we just did that whole thing.”
Ashley Kohler, who will graduate this spring and plans to try out for the Oregon State cheer team, said the group’s appearances at games mostly involve an unplanned approach.
“There are some things that we do plan and there are other things that are right there and then,” she said. “Since the basketball games are at the same time as the competition season, it’s more of a go-with-the-flow kind of thing.”
Kaylie Kohler likes to cheer at games and participate in events, but favors the latter.
“I like the cheering part of games, I like being there, I like supporting our teams,” she said. “But I just love how being on the mat, you get that adrenaline rush for those two minutes we have on the mat and it’s really fun.”
Webster also prefers the competitions.
“Only because then you can be there as a family,” she said. “It’s not really like a team or a sport – you’re all in it together, you make each other up and it feels like they’re your family. At the end of the year, you’ve grown so much and you’ve learned, ‘Oh, I can trust these people.’ Webster, Zoey Ringwald, Kaylie Kohler and Ashley Kohler. (Photo provided by Kathy Kohler)
State Championships on February 11th
Philomath will compete at state on Feb. 11 in the Traditional Class 4A category. The Warriors are scheduled to be the first 4A school to perform in Oregon City with a 9:05 a.m. The 4A schools to follow are The Dalles, North Bend, Pendleton, Gladstone, Cascade, Newport, St. Helens, Junction City, Molalla, Sweet Home, Cottage Grove and Marshfield.
“It’s different since they moved it to a high school versus Veterans Memorial Coliseum … so it’s set up a little bit differently,” Coach Kohler said. “But it’s fun and I think they’re having a good time — it’s the camaraderie between the teams … everybody supports everybody else and it’s a really cool environment to be in.”
Philomath competed as a coed team last year, but has an all-girls squad this time around.
Ashley Kohler, the most experienced athlete on the roster, said the cheerleaders need to be mentally prepared for the big day.
“You tell yourself that it’s just another competition, like, it’s not different, and a lot of people freak out about that — myself included,” she said. “But it’s just another competition that a lot of teams support you … state, I feel, is where you get the most support from the other teams.”
According to a recent upset story published by OSAAtoday, the teams expected to be state title contenders include Gladstone, Sweet Home, Newport, The Dallas and North Bend.
The OSAA has added a Game Day category, but schools can only enter one of the two contests, not both.
Webster believes staying positive will be key.
“Usually that’s all we really need,” she said. “As long as we have our team, we are good and everything else doesn’t matter. Right now, that’s how it feels.”
Kaylie Kohler said, “We just have to try our best. I’ve seen all of us do it, we all can do it. We just have to have confidence and work together.”
After state, Philomath will then compete in the OCCA Championships on Feb. 18 at Salem Pavilion, located at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.
“It’s kind of a last hurrah for all the teams and usually it’s our favorite event because the conditioning is over, the pressure is off and it’s a lot more relaxed,” said Coach Kohler. “I’m excited this year because it’s also kind of the state competition for math teams, so it’s their last big event. So we will take the children and see how they do there.”