Cheer team ready to lead the charge
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
A multi-sport athlete who played on several traveling teams growing up, Aubree Karlin decided to try something different when she reached high school.
Now, Karlin is in her third year on the varsity cheerleading squad at Hays High School, part of a veteran group that won numerous awards at a Universal Cheerleaders Association camp this summer in Pratt.
Karlin performed so well, in fact, that she was asked to work for the UCA next summer. She jumped at the chance, hoping that will prepare her for her next step in cheerleading.
"I'd really like to cheer at K-State," Karlin said of her college choice, Kansas State University.
But UCA -- and KSU -- will have to wait.
Karlin is looking to her senior year along with seven classmates who are entering the last year of their high school career.
That will begin with Hays High's annual Maroon and Gold Kickoff Classic at Fort Hays State University's Lewis Field Stadium, where all the fall sports teams are introduced and several teams have scrimmages.
Across town, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School will be having its Blue and White Scrimmage at the same time.
While TMP also will have some experienced cheerleaders back this year, the team as a whole will be young. There is only one senior on the squad, Ashley Springer, and she is in her first year out for cheerleading at TMP. Nonetheless, the Monarchs also performed well at camp this summer, with three of them receiving All-America honors.
Cheerleaders from both schools will get the chance to warm up at Friday's scrimmages, in preparation for next week's season-opening football games.
Karlin said she is ready to get started after a summer of practicing, and she thinks the Maroon and Gold event is a "great way" to kick off the school year, in more ways than one.
"I think (at the kickoff) people are looking forward to the fall seasons, and they see we do put in a lot of work and practice and dedication," she said of the cheerleading squad.
Karlin hopes to attend an April tryout at K-State, where she plans to attend college and major in nursing or pre-med.
She might be able to get some tips from her coach, Courtney Schweizer, new to the Hays High program this year but a former high school and college cheerleader and pre-med major.
Schweizer is a senior from Valley Center who was involved in cheerleading all through high school, then cheered a year for McPherson College before transferring to Fort Hays her sophomore year.
She had to give up cheerleading because of having suffered too many concussions but found the perfect substitute in coaching.
"I love coaching," said Schweizer, who started coaching her senior year in high school when she taught a girls' team and was excited when she saw the HHS job posted at the university.
While Karlin caught the eye of the UCA camp staff as a potential camp leader, two of her teammates, senior Laura Engel and sophomore Mariah Haley, earned All-America honors at the camp and qualified to perform in London in January.
In addition to learning more techniques, Schweizer thinks her squad learned other valuable lessons as well.
"They did a lot of growing as a squad," she said. "They learn how to rely on one another, how to be a better team overall."
Schweizer, who also is majoring in art and is set to graduate in May from Fort Hays, doesn't plan on going anywhere soon. Her husband, Jerdan Schweizer, also is a Fort Hays student majoring in agriculture and works at Carrico Implement in Hays.
"I love this team," Schweizer said "I don't want to leave these girls. I'd be happy to just stay right here (in Hays)."
The feeling is mutual.
"She's always there for us and keeps us really motivated," Karlin said of Schweizer.
Karlin added she is anticipating a good senior year.
"The (younger cheerleaders) look up to you," she said, "and I think it will be fun to get to lead everybody."