The Moffat County High School spirit team practices stunts Wednesday on the MCHS track. New head coach Jennifer Vallem said she wants to help bring recognition to the program by having them participate in competitive cheering events this year.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

The Moffat County High School spirit team practices stunts Wednesday on the MCHS track. New head coach Jennifer Vallem said she wants to help bring recognition to the program by having them participate in competitive cheering events this year.

Jennifer Vallem looks to bring recognition to MCHS spirit team

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Jennifer Vallem

At a glance

Coach:

• Jennifer Vallem

Seniors:

• Jordan Porter

• Leslie Martinez

By the numbers:

1: This is Jennifer Vallem’s first year as head coach of the MCHS spirit team, taking over for former coach Heather Higgins.

5: The spirit team will perform at all five MCHS varsity home football games this season. Vallem said each game’s half time would consist of a unique performance.

Jennifer Vallem seems the right choice to take over the Moffat County High School spirit team considering her background.

Vallem cheered in high school and college and has coaching experience in the Denver area.

She also comes from a gymnastics background and has served as a USA Junior Olympic coach in gymnastics.

So, with Vallem at the helm of this year’s squad, it comes as no surprise a change is in order.

“We are going to focus more on tumbling and each halftime show at football games is going to be a surprise,” she said. “We have worked with a choreographer on themes and we don’t want to do the same routine every time.

“It is important to have variety because it helps keep people entertained, and the themes keep people questioning what is next.”

The team is returning two seniors this year — Jordan Porter and Leslie Martinez.

Porter said in just the first week of practice, a change could be seen with Vallem leading the way.

“Just by the way practice is ran, Jennifer is bringing in new ideas,” she said. “I think everything we have worked on is going to help bring recognition to our team with the student body and the community.”

With the move of Gymstar Fun N’ Fit Gymnastics to the Centennial Mall, where Vallem coaches, the team has also been able to use gymnastics equipment to help their technique.

“In the past we have had to practice in the wrestling room or the common area at the school, but the gymnastics area at the mall gives us more equipment to work with,” Vallem said. “We have a nice facility to practice and we have equipment to help with tumbling and handstands.”

The team will also compete outside of Craig this year.

The team will cheer competitively at the state event in December in Denver, something a MCHS spirit team hasn’t done in years.

Vallem said she is also looking at a regional event as well as several other various competitions around the state for her team to attend.

“When cheerleading is done the right way with everything implemented, it is a sport,” she said. “The girls want to compete and if we can go out and succeed, I think that helps bring recognition to our program.”

Porter, who started doing gymnastics when she was 2, said bringing back competitive cheerleading is a welcome change.

“Adding gymnastics really helps us with our flexibility and it helps us be more comfortable performing in front of crowds,” she said. “Some girls have never done it before, but it is a big change for the better.”

To get the girls in shape for the newly structured stunting, Vallem has the team running around two miles every day and focusing on strength building, such as mountain climbs, sit ups, push ups and being in the weight room.

Porter said the strength training is crucial.

“We are trying to work up to what the football boys do every day,” she said. “We have to lift girls the same height and weight as us, so we need to be able to keep them up.”

The strength will also help with the mental aspect of the sport, Vallem said.

“When you are doing stunts, your teammate’s safety is in your hands,” she said. “There is a high injury rate in cheering, and if the girls are strong physically and mentally, they will be safe.”

While the team is implementing new facets, Vallem said they wouldn’t stray from tradition.

“We wanted to introduce some new and exciting cheers that will connect with the high school age fans,” she said. “But, there are a lot of people who went to high school here, and we still want to keep the traditional cheers everyone knows.”

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