Craig cheerleading team headed to national competition
Nova Cheer may only be in its first full year of competition, but it’s already making a big bang.
The Craig cheerleading squad, a team made up of eight girls between ages 8 and 16, is headed to Las Vegas for a national-level competition. The team, based out of Rising Star Youth Training Center, is coached by Kayla Colgate.
Colgate grew up in cheer camps as a child and rose through the ranks to cheer on scholarship for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Now a teacher at Craig Middle School, the opportunity to coach the sport she loves has brought her and her relatively tiny squad of youngsters uncommonly rapid success.
“We started last year, but we only made it to one competition due to COVID,” Colgate said. “ With our full season, we’ve gone to two competitions already — the first we placed third out of four or five teams, and this last one we got first. Our first place gave us a bid to nationals. That’s a big deal, considering our size and the difference in our team’s age.”
Colgate said most of the teams Nova competes against are made up of primarily high school girls, and most teams have 25 or 30 athletes.
“We’re pretty tiny compared to the others,” she said.
On top of their size and age, there’s experience gaps, as well.
“I have quite a few girls who came to me when there was a a previously All-Star team in town, and they knew the background of it,” Colgate said. “I also have some gymnasts that wanted to try cheer and fell in love with it. They have a basic knowledge of tumbling. But I’ve also got newbies who had friends doing it and just saw us performing and they’ve joined us too.”
And, if that weren’t enough of an uphill climb for these girls and their coach, there’s also the issue of practice time.
“We practice about two and a half hours, twice a week,” Colgate said. “Those practices are long and grueling, because we don’t get a ton of time. I try to make every minute count.”
That’s because the competition gets a lot more minutes to work with.
“Other cheer teams practice more than twice a week and their practices are only like two hours,” Colgate said. “They get more mat time than we do — and we go against chain gyms with multiple gym facilities across the country that are just strictly cheer gyms. With our town, we can’t be like that. So we have to maximize every minute we have in the gym.”
That entails intense effort from the girls, Colgate said. Tumbling stations, conditioning, video work, even mental conditioning are part of the deal for the team.
“They know they’re underdogs,” said Ashley Coats, a mother involved with the team. “That makes them push so hard — to make their way in the cheer world.”
Colgate has lived the promise of the future competitive cheer can bring to someone who truly buys in.
“Kayla wants these girls to be seen by colleges to get those scholarships,” Coats said. “She understands how important it is for us to go to things like nationals — for the girls and for their futures.”
It’s already paying off.
“At our last competition, I was approached by the CSU Pueblo cheer coach about one of the girls on our team,” Colgate said.
Nationals will be a whole new world for the Nova squad. But it’s one for which they’ll be prepared as well as possible.
“We compete tat the level 2 skill level, so they have two and a half minutes to show how well they can jump, stunt and tumble,” Colgate said. “Our tumbling can range from dive-forward rolls to back handsprings. Stunting includes shoulder sits all the way to inverted one-legged stunts. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of stamina and strength and knowing how to put your body through that and still come out safe.”
The girls need some hometown help to get out to Las Vegas, though. Coats pointed out that it’s extremely short notice for the families — the competition is April 29 and 30 — and there’s a financial toll.
“We’re looking for support from the community to help ease the cost on these parents,” Coats said. “We want to make sure these girls get to this experience. If businesses, individuals, anybody that can donate or sponsor the team — and we’re willing to have the girls work for it. (Saturday) we had them out shoveling snow for donations. Whatever anybody can give, we’re grateful for it.”
Coats invited potential donors to contact her, at 970-644-7626, or fellow cheer mom Kelsey Chichester at 719-293-0774.
“I’m just so proud of this team,” Colgate said. “They’ve really worked hard. I’m very proud to be their coach. They’ve come so far, and I can’t wait to see where we continue to go.”
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