Co-ed cheerleading advances to state in head coach’s first year

    Whether they’re chanting the LP fight song, celebrating a touchdown or a basket, hyping up Lancers fans, or performing at pep rallies and halftime, the Lake Park cheer team has been and continues to be the prime leader in cheering on the Lancers to victory, most especially at football and basketball games. This year, Lake Park Co-Ed Competitive Cheer advanced all the way to state.
    Not only was this achievement impressive, but also record breaking. Back in 2011 when LP cheer won the state competition, LP scored a 90.14. This season, the Lake Park cheer team qualified for state at sectionals placing 3rd with a score of 91.53 while committing no errors (what is known in cheer competition as “hitting 0”), setting the highest sectional score recorded for LP.
    Nevertheless, the process leading up to this momentous occasion did not come easy. The LP cheer team begins preparing for their season at their summer camps where cheerleaders learn the routine for the upcoming football and later basketball and competition seasons. However, once the season starts that is when the real athletes come out.
    First year Head Coach Mr. Joe Labeck described the athleticism and dedication necessary to excel in the sport of cheerleading at the highest level in the state.
    “It’s kind of how soccer players need to have enough endurance to run up and down the field. Cheer needs to have strength to be able to lift and toss people above their heads. Or how cheerleaders need to be able to tumble, just like gymnasts, with slight modification to make it legal,” Coach LaBeck said.
    “When you can get a random person to lift and bend their bodies in different ways, or save flyers’ lives when they’re through the air or about to fall, then it’s a sport. That needs to be practiced to perfection,” cheerleader Daja White said (LP 25’).
    Many cheerleaders shared the feeling of cheer acting as a second family.
    “The friendships I have made along the way feel more like family to me,” Robert Glennon (LP ‘24) said.
    With the main task of working together as a group to strive for perfection, cheerleading develops an athlete not just physically but mentally and helps build habits for a successful future.
    “Cheerleading taught me how to adapt what I’m learning and put it into other aspects of my life,” Robert said.
    “When getting feedback on my skills I listen and fully take in my critique and think about how I would achieve the correction.”
    The LP cheer team shows this athleticism through their 6 day practices ranging from 2-3 hours. In these practices the Lancers start with a dynamic warmup that works on reinforcing consistency and technique. This warm up consists of standing and running tumbling, stretching before jumps, and separately working on stunts, baskets, and pyramids, all main components to their routine and the scoring rubric. After their warm ups the team begins “full-outs” which is performing the entire routine as if they were in a competition.
    After one full-out, Coach LaBeck and Assistant Coach Ms. Jessica Olsen point out and address any aspect that needs to be “cleaned up.” From then the team repeats the full-outs about 3 to 4 times.
    “Doing this allows us to make sure that our routine is looking the absolute best it can, while also having our athletes build up their endurance to help make it look like they are performing our routine with ease,” said Coach Labeck.
    So how is all this intense practice applied? Cheer teams are scored based upon a rubric of 100 points covering 8 categories: jumps, tumbling, pyramids/baskets, stunts, motions, project/showmanship, skill utilization, and routine composition. In addition, 4 categories are judged on how well each skill is executed: jumps, tumbling, pyramids/baskets, and stunts. In scoring, judges look for teams with the highest level of skill and best execution, but also cheerleaders with loud voices and big smiles. This season Lake Park fulfilled these requirements most notably seen at sectionals with a score of 91.53 and a 3rd place finish all while hitting 0.
    Michelina Adamo (LP ‘24) reassured that “a main factor that helped us go to state was definitely our persistence, hard work, and accountability. All of these characteristics describe the team as a whole and at the end of the day those characteristics are what got us to state, not just talent,”.
    At the start of the season LP cheer is seen near the field cheering on the football team at home or away games. Football season, for the cheer team, is a time for practicing their routine and working on new skills in addition to hoco performances and halftime shows. Basketball season, which is also competition season, is when the team puts together their routine and goes against various schools performing to have the “cleanest” routine.
    LPHS cheer started their competition season at the Carl Sandburg competition with a first place finish and a score of 84.63. Following that came the Belvidere North competition where LP got the chance to show off their skills and compete against some of the top teams in state, hitting 0. During the basketball season, LP cheer looks most forward to being a part of the Lancer hero games and “the amazing inclusive environment that Lake Park has,” said coach LaBeck.
    After this season especially, the LP cheer team looks ahead towards a promising future.
    “This season, and this team has put a positive mindset and drive back into the program,” said coach LaBeck.
    Next season the entire cheer team, especially the juniors coming back for their senior season, have the primary goal of “Making it to state again and placing top 10 to advance to the second day of state,” said Lily Frank (LP ‘25).

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