Most of the 29 members of the Moffat County Thunder cheerleaders pose for a photo Tuesday at Gymstar Gymnastics in Craig. Ten members of the youth team and 19 on the senior team will be heading to Las Vegas this weekend for the World Spirit Federation Nationals.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Most of the 29 members of the Moffat County Thunder cheerleaders pose for a photo Tuesday at Gymstar Gymnastics in Craig. Ten members of the youth team and 19 on the senior team will be heading to Las Vegas this weekend for the World Spirit Federation Nationals.

Local cheer squads head to nationals

No matter what the final results will be in Las Vegas this weekend, the Moffat County Thunder cheerleaders have had a winning season on the cheer mat.

Along with the cache of awards Thunder squads have earned at earlier events this season, interest in the local competitive squad continues to grow, assistant coach Debi Schmidt said.

"This is the first year we have two teams going to Las Vegas," she said.

Upon arrival Saturday at the Cox Arena, both Thunder teams face stiff challenges when the two squads take the floor for the preliminary round of the two-day, World Spirit Federation Nationals.

Each team's preliminary scores are factored and then combined with Sunday's divisional final marks to determine a winner.

The Thunder's 10-member, Level 2 Youth Team consists of age 11 and younger girls. They, along with the Thunder's Senior (12 and older), Level 2 Open squad are the lone Colorado-based entries.

Other teams in both divisions are from Nevada, California and Arizona.

A new feature the senior team brings to the table is the addition of four boys to this year's squad.

From the start, it didn't take much coaxing to get the boys to join.

"My best friend, Melissa, was on the squad. And I didn't have anything to do after graduating from high school," Drew Turner explained.

Two of the senior team's four boys had sisters on the team. Another "just kind of fell into it," Schmidt said.

"I like having the guys," senior squad member Clara Tomlin said. "I'm a flyer, and (guys make) it more stable for me when I stunt."

Together, the older unit has meshed. At the Cheer Spirit Nationals in Denver, the senior and youth teams both finished among the top three in their respective division.

"They have been a plus to the team, for sure," Schmidt said about the senior team.

"The girls on the team were excited about it, because it allows them to do things they haven't been able to do before."

The youth team has taken improved in skill from the start of the season.

"Three of the girls never competed before this year," Schmidt explained. "They have gained experience, and I believe they will do well in Las Vegas."

Although the goal for the Thunder is to bring back a national title or two, that's not the ultimate goal, Tomlin said.

"I just want us to work as a team and have fun."

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