St. Mary’s High School’s cheer team brought home the trophy from the inaugural Tri-Peaks League Cheerleading Championships in mid-November, competing against some of the best teams at this level in the state.
“Winning this inaugural championship is huge for St. Mary’s and the girls on our team,” said Frank Wille, SMHS cheerleading coach. “It will always feel good when we look at the banner hanging in our gym, and say ‘I was on that team!’”
Wille said many league coaches and athletic directors have worked hard over the last several years to get the Tri-Peaks League Cheerleading Championships sanctioned by the Colorado High School Athletic Association.
“Alice Stoneback, the Manitou Springs cheer coach, led the effort,” Wille said. “Additionally, our league athletic directors, led by John McGee and Ed Latimer, have been extremely supportive and were directly responsible for gaining CHSAA approval for this competition.”
Manitou Springs High School hosted the Tri-Peaks championship that, in addition to St. Mary’s, included teams from Colorado Springs Christian, Florence, Buena Vista, The Classical Academy, Manitou Springs, and Salida.
It seemed fitting that the league should have its own championships. Wille said the Tri-Peaks League has in the past produced some of the best competitive cheerleading squads in the state. Last year, he said, the league produced the 3A state cheerleading champion, plus three of the teams finished in the top six in the state, including the St. Mary’s team.
“We knew we would have our hands full competing against these high caliber teams, including the defending 3A state champion Manitou Mustangs,” Wille said. “We competed twice in preparation for this competition against tough 3A, 4A, and 5A teams from throughout the state. We placed second in our division in the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference Championships and second in the National Cheerleading Association Mile High Regionals earlier this month.”
Cheerleaders compete in CHSAA-sanctioned league, regional, invitational, and state competitions that showcase individual and team skills. Wille said a typical competition routine is highly choreographed, and includes elements such as running tumbling, jumps, stunts, basket tosses, dance, and leading the audience in a cheer.
“All of this is neatly packaged into a dynamic, high energy, two-and-one-half minute routine, judged by a panel of five judges as well as a technical judge,” Wille said.
Wille said that in preparation for state, the team will compete again this weekend at the Flip and Shout Winter Challenge in Denver. That will be followed by the CHSAA State Spirit Championships on Dec. 8.
“I am very proud of this team. We have overcome adversity and have become stronger,” Wille said. “Five of our girls are first team All Conference, and one is honorable mention. We are learning what it means to be part of a team, the meaning of commitment, and what it takes to be successful.”
St. Mary’s all-conference team members include seniors Laura Wallace and Annemarie Nicieza, juniors Remi Kessler and Ellen Thomas, and sophomore Taylore Prinsen. Sophomore Emily Hemann received the honorable mention. Wallace and Rachael Hemann were also named National Cheerleading Association All Americans.
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Below, the St. Mary's cheer team stops for a photo in the Manitou Springs gym, site of the inaugural Tri-Peaks League Cheerleading Championship.