Two years of Wildkat cheerleading moves into the furture |

Two years of Wildkat cheerleading moves into the furture

Elwood Shelton

Nowadays, the rah-rahs of cheerleading have been replaced with intricate human pyramids, and the pom-pons have been put away in favor of breath-taking aerial maneuvers. Cheerleading, much like any athletic endeavor, is a seed best planted early in the season, and so it has been for the Craig Wildkats cheering squad.

Girls ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade work twice a week as a group to prefect their moves, and spend many more hours at home in front of mirrors or parents, ensuring that their routines are down.

“It’s a sport which builds self-esteem in the girls,” said Dawn Rader, founder and head coach of the Wildcats. “They all have to do their individual job to function as a team.”

The hours of individual work and team practice were put on display March 18, when the squad performed its routine in front of 2,500 spectators at The Disney Land Classic, in Anaheim Calif.

The Classic drew 22 teams of fledgling cheerleaders who showed their attitudes, and competed for the best performed routine.

The Wildkats placed both of the squads they traveled.

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The Wildkats walked away with a 10th-place performance.

The Wildkittens, the youth squad with girls between kindergarten and fourth grade, cheered their way to fifth place.

“When the girls got up for their performance, I was extremely nervous, but my daughter made eye contact with me and I knew everything was going to go all right it really gave me goose bumps,” said assistant coach and mother of a Wildkat, Tammy Rogers.

Wildkats is a relatively new program in Craig, started two years ago by Rader.

Rader, who had coached a multitude of different sports through the Parks and Recreation department, had noticed that all the sports offered were contact-based competitions. Feeling as though many of the sports intimidated girls, and kept them from participating, she decided to start the cheerleading squad.

Unlike teams from across the country, the Wildkats do not require tryouts, nor is a gymnastics background necessary.

“When we started, we had three girls on the squad that had a gymnastics background, now we have eight that can do a back hand-spring,” Rader said.

With community’s financial support and interest, the Wildkats have prospered. The squad has grown from 13 members in the first year, to more than 25 this year. They have supplemented the fees charged to parents with a number of fund-raising strategies, such as the Craigoply board game.

The Wildkats plan to expand their horizons in cheerleading, with their goal being Dallas, Texas.

Dallas is the home of the National Cheerleaders Association championship, as well as a shot at a national cheering title. The hurdle the girls will have to clear before qualifying for the national title will be next year’s regional competition.

The squad doesn’t plan to stop at a national championship, but will broaden their scope, opening the door for older girls to participate.

This month, Rader plans to start an advance program, offered to junior high and high school-aged girls.

It will be called the Wildkats Elite.

The one thing that Rader made clear is that the Wildkats could not have reached their previous goals, nor would they be able to continue to grow without the support of the community.

“The community is what helped us get to Disney Land, and they have shown their support for the squad,” she said. “It is this interest that keeps the program successful.”

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