Waukee cheerleaders' hard work pays off

Bailey Freestone-Sports
The Waukee competition cheerleading team were awarded runner-up and best use of tumbling at the NCA High School National Chamionship the weekend of Jan. 21-22.

On the weekend of Jan. 21-22 the Waukee Warriors competition cheerleading team traveled to Dallas, Texas to compete at the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) High School National Championship.

The Warriors' coed team is made up 27 cheerleaders who were awarded runner-up honors at Nationals as well as being recognized for best use of tumbling in their routine.

This same group placed first in their division at the Iowa State Cheerleading Championship in November. This made the Warriors back-to-back state champions.

The Warriors have been working hard since last May. When practice began, the team worked on learning new tumbling and stunting skills. Before long, July rolled around and they were learning the choreography for their State routine.

Not only were the Warriors working hard to perfect their routine, they were working hard to receive a bid to go to the Nationals competition.

A bid in the cheerleading world is an invitation to compete at an exclusive or a more competitive competition.

The Warriors qualified for their bid when they traveled to Kansas City over the summer for a camp. At this camp, teams could demonstrate specific skills at a certain level of difficulty.

Once the Warriors had taken on State, they bumped up the difficulty of their routine for Nationals. The cheerleaders had been practicing three days a week and occasionally even four days.

All the hard work paid off when the Warriors made it to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The Warriors competed in the Advanced Large Coed division against Timber Creek High School (Fort Worth, Texas) and Valley from West Des Moines. The Warriors fell just short of first place by 0.13 of a point behind Timber Creek.

"Watching my team compete is more stressful for me than when I competed as an athlete," said Coach Ashley Jackson. "As a coach you can hope and pray that your athletes are prepared but anything can happen on that competition floor and at that point you aren't in control of what happens. All you can do is try to prepare them the best you can and leave the rest up to them. I have been very proud of how well my athletes have performed over the years."

The Warriors' competition coach is Ashley Jackson. Jackson has now been coaching for nine years, eight which have been at Waukee. She began coaching at Waukee when she was just 20 years old when she took on the role of head coach, after a year she became assistant coach until she became the competition cheer coach three years ago.

"The most rewarding thing for me as a coach is seeing each athlete grow every year. I have the opportunity to help mold these young athletes into who they will be in the future," said Jackson.

For Jackson, the role of coaching the Waukee cheerleaders extends beyond cheerleading and into life as well. 

"I have the opportunity to teach them about respect and responsibility and life lessons that may impact them forever," she said. "Every year my goal is to make the team feel like a family. The teammates care about each other and have a bond with each other that can't really be explained. I'm proud of the relationships that they have built with each other and the way that they respect and care for each other. When it's all over they will always remember their successes and the trophies but what they will remember the most is the friendships that they made along the way."

Of the Warriors' 27 athletes, only six are seniors. The other 21 will have the opportunity to tryout to return to the team and potentially compete alongside one another next season.