By Jocelyn Rowley Sports@lhvc.com Dec 29, 2017
Niwot cheer coach Alexis Bellinger isn’t shy about praising her team’s performance at this year’s Class 4A State Cheerleading tournament, held Dec. 8-9 at the Denver Coliseum.
“The girls were in a great place,” said Bellinger, who co-coaches the team with former Erie cheer assistant Catherine Linhardt. “Everything was falling into place. We went out to perform, and they had an absolutely flawless routine. They had zero deductions. Absolutely every stunt, every tumbling, and every jump hit, and we were really excited.”
After a rousing send-off at a team breakfast hosted by Niwot principal Eric Rauschkolb, the Cougars scored 69.1 points on the day, which was good for 13th place out of 31 teams, and well ahead of local rivals Erie (17th) and Longmont (24th). It was also five places higher than last year’s 18th-place finish.
“Our scoring sheets from the judges all said that our cheer was really enthusiastic and our team looked really clean,” she continued. “The areas we could score really high in, we did.”
Niwot’s top-15 finish was all the more remarkable considering the team nearly disbanded back in August. In the wake of a coaching change in the early weeks of the school year, the squad lost more than half of its 25 members, who either left voluntarily or were declared ineligible. When Bellinger, a Niwot graduate who cheered for the school in 2002 and 2003, agreed to join the coaching staff in early September, just a handful of cheerleaders remained, and most of them were new to the sport.
Fortunately for Bellinger and Linhardt, the nine girls who stayed made the best of their uncertain situation. Led by three juniors, who have been with the team since their freshman year, the depleted Niwot cheerleading squad made promoting school spirit their mission, and participated fully in sporting events and other school activities during the fall. That dedication paid off with a nearly perfect routine at state.
“We were grateful for the nine girls we had on that mat,” Bellinger said. “They’ve been committed all season. They’ve shown up to every practice, they’ve shown up to every game, they’ve really committed to being a part of this squad, and I think it was really rewarding for them to have such a positive result.”
Bellinger hopes that positive result will lead to a more stable Niwot cheer program going forward. Inconsistent levels of interest have made it difficult to field a full team in recent years, let alone a competitive one, but Bellinger said she and Linhardt are committed to staying with the burgeoning program and lending it some much-needed stability.
“We’re hoping to see even more success next year. We’re hoping for a good turnout for tryouts. It can be a long season and it can be expensive, but Catherine and I are working hard on fundraising to help minimize that. If someone wants to be on the team, there’s a place.”
Though the competition portion of the season is behind them, the Niwot cheer squad will be on hand for basketball games and other school activities through the winter. On Saturday, Jan. 20, the team will be performing during the CU Men’s basketball game against the Washington Huskies, a familiar place for Bellinger, who was a CU cheerleader during her college years. They also have plans for a mini-Cheer camp and other fundraisers before the end of the school year. Tryouts for next year’s team are scheduled for March.