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HHS squad gives coach reason to cheer

8/29/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

The Hays High School cheerleading squad raised the level of competition this summer during a cheer camp in El Dorado.

Two-year All-American Taylor Hodny, a senior from Hays High School, was recognized as one of the best performers at a Universal Cheerleaders Association camp in El Dorado, along with fellow teammates senior Lexsie Ditter and juniors Mariah Haley and Kristyn Hodny, Taylor's younger sister.

With that honor came the offer of marching in a New Year's Day parade in London.

All-Americans were selected via tryout based on the superior cheerleading or dance skills they showed at camp. Only the top 12 percent of cheerleaders and dancers who attended varsity camps earned the chance to march in a holiday parade.

Other top camp awards for HHS were a superior team award and a second-place finish in a choreographed routine, even more impressive considering the Indian cheerleaders attended camp just a few weeks after a new coach was hired.

"I was really nervous at first," said Abby Staley-Herman, who coached competitive cheerleading in Texas for years before moving to Hays and was hired in June. "But I was amazed how quickly they caught on to everything."

Hays High was the only school at the El Dorado camp to have four cheerleaders named All-American.

Now, Staley-Herman is looking forward to entering her squad in some cheering competitions while at the same time introducing a new system.

"With things being done in a different style, it can be tough," she said of coaching changes. "But they trust what I say, and it's going to be amazing."

Hays High graduated eight varsity cheerleaders last spring, and captains Taylor Hodny and Ditter are the only seniors on this year's varsity squad.

That doesn't faze Staley-Herman.

"We have a really talented group of younger (cheerleaders)," Staley-Herman said of the 15 non-seniors, that includes eight sophomores. "I'm looking forward to building a really strong program.

"(Cheerleading) can be run like a true sport. I want them to be seen as athletes and positive role models for our school."

The four All-Americans all said they knew they were in for a year of transition and are "excited" about going to competitions.

"I'm up for it," said Haley, who won the individual award for best jumps at the El Dorado camp.

Whitmer leads Monarchs

Senior Samantha Whitmer from Thomas More Prep-Marian High School earned All-American honors at a cheerleading camp in Pratt this summer.

Whitmer, the only four-year member of the Monarchs' cheer team this year, for the second consecutive year was named All-American at a Universal Cheerleaders Association camp.

Whitmer, team captain this year, and the rest of the Monarchs received superior squad distinction at the Pratt UCA camp, finishing first in game day routine and second in both extreme dance and home dance routines.

Whitmer was one of five cheerleaders asked to apply to help run the Pratt camp next year.

She has not decided for sure about doing that but rather is looking forward to this year.

"I love cheering for our team and getting closer to the student body and the athletes," she said. "And I've made so many new friends."