Blue Devil cheerleaders encourage the spirit of youth

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Watch video at the end of story of the Blue Devil cheer camp.

The morning's work could be summed up like this: Be as loud as possible, squeeze in plenty of jumping and clapping and cheer with all your heart. And of course, don't forget to smile.

The 50 participants of the latest Walla Walla High School Cheer Camp recently put their best moves forward, and filled the school's gymnasium with near-deafening cheers and screams as the camp got under way.

The "future cheerleaders" got a chance to meet and learn from Wa-Hi's cheerleading squad, a dozen girls in 11th and 12th grades who not long ago were getting introduced to cheering as well. Each young participant got to take home a T-shirt with the "future cheerleaders" slogan on them, a pair of blue and white pom-poms, a small megaphone and a Blue Devil frisbee.

Throughout the two-hour camp, the young girls learned the words and moves to a variety cheers, and got to learn and try out different types of jumps. The morning was dedicated to going over cheers and learning a simple choreographed routine set to music, while getting to work directly with the older cheerleaders.

That night, all the camp participants got to perform their cheers and dance routine as the halftime entertainment of the girls' basketball game.

A popular draw for area youngsters, particularly girls, the Wa-Hi Cheer Camp is a seasonal activity that is typically offered during football season by the squad, and the school's dance team during basketball season. But without a dance squad at the moment, the Wa-Hi cheerleaders stepped in and offered the camp for a second time.

The camp is open to girls and boys in elementary school, or in kindergarten through fifth grade. Although no boys were present for the recent camp, Coach Cathy Rasley said boys have participated in years past. While 50 participants looked like a healthy turnout, Rasley said it was slightly down from past events.

The morning proved a fun draw, with the younger girls getting to emulate the grace and energy of the Wa-Hi squad. To start, Rasley explained to the participants that being a Wa-Hi cheerleader is no different from being on any other team. The girls are expected to make practices, attend games, and most importantly keep their grades up.

Rasley said having good grades in high school is one point she didn't want lost on the young participants.

"It's not just because they can do a jump that they can be on the cheer team," she said.

Team captain Katie Krivoshein, 18, is a senior this year and in her second year on the squad. Kriovshein said she could remember being in elementary school herself and going to the cheer and dance camps.

"So this is really fun to be the one in charge of it now," she said.

A third-generation cheerleader, whose mother and grandmother each cheered in school, Krivoshein said she enjoyed hosting the camp because of the chance to work with the young girls.

"They get so excited," she said. "I feel that same excitement cheering for games."

At the start of the camp, each girl on the Wa-Hi team introduced herself, and said what elementary school she attended. Rasley gave a friendly reminder to all the girls to be loud, a key trait of a successful cheer.

After splitting into smaller groups broken down by age, the younger girls got to know the older cheerleaders as they went over specific cheers, or practiced jumps, or picked up their accessories for the night's game.

Along the bleachers, each girl also got to choose a small basketball or megaphone stick-on tattoo, with most going on the girl's faces.

Sydni Gwinn's 4-year-old daughter, Delaney, was among the participants. Delaney brought a lot of enthusiasm, particularly as she learned some routines and got her pom-poms and megaphone.

"She wanted to do it last year, but she was only 3," she said.

Rasley said the camp also shows girls how much work really goes into being on the team.

"People think that they can just come in and be a cheerleader but it actually takes a lot of energy," she said.

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