Abby Cornelius’ alarm sounds at 6:15 a.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning – the first thing she hears as she wakes up and prepares for an intense two-hour practice session before school.
Cornelius and the Mustang Bronco cheer squad gets started at 7 a.m. three days a week, beginning with a quick cardio warmup before jumping straight into ‘full outs’ – a complete run through of a routine geared for this weekend’s regional competition.
Even in the mornings, the MHS gymnasium can be hot and sticky, and it tends to get loud once practice starts.
These things are fine by Cornelius and her teammates. They are out to prove their craft isn’t just about the glitz and glamour they display on the sideline.
“It’s not just doing chants and cheers,” said Cornelius, who is one of five seniors leading the Mustang cheer squad this season. “It’s more about the competition than people think and it’s a lot of work. Once the school year starts, there really is no break.
“You can’t change people’s minds though. Unless they see it for themselves.”
Mustang competes at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the 2022 OSSAA Class 6A competitive cheer regional at Broken Arrow High School, looking to punch its ticket to the state competition next weekend at Union High School in Tulsa.
The goal is perfection. Unlike most sports, if you make one mistake, you’re likely to be counted out says Mustang coach Caitlin Walker. It’s only two minutes with no room for error.
“In other sports you usually get another chance after messing up,” Walker said. “But that’s not the case in cheer. These girls are doing things that are incredibly difficult and they pretty much have to be perfect.”
Regionals will be broken down into two divisions for the first time this year. The Broncos are grouped with Union, Edmond Santa Fe, Norman North, Stillwater, Booker T Washington, and Edmond Memorial.
Mustang is scheduled to compete at 11:14 a.m. with awards scheduled to be given out immediately following Edmond Memorial’s performance at 11:35 a.m. The regional champion, runner-up, and all teams scoring at least 75 out of 100 possible points will advance to state.
“The last few weeks we have really pushed hard,” Cornelius said. “We’re trying to take it a little easier this week leading up to the competition, but it has taken a lot of work to get ready for these competitions.”
Mustang’s cheer squad poses for a photo during a game at Bronco Stadium. The Broncos are headed to the regional competition this weekend at Broken Arrow High School. (Photo by Shelly Holinsworth / Freelance Action Photography)
Cornelius and classmates Kylee Daniel, Kymari Russell, Madison Sullins, and Emma Williams have stepped into leadership roles this season. Mustang doesn’t name captains, but the senior group takes on those responsibilities. The team leans on their experience according to Walker.
“There is no divisiveness with this group,” Walker said. “The five of them have taken on the role of being captains in many ways. They make a lot of decisions as to what we’re doing for sideline as well as different spirit events.
“It’s also their job to get everybody’s mind right for competition and they have really been great at doing that.”
Walker also says the entire team has bought into the grind of early morning practices along with other activities the squad leads. Not to mention cheering at football games and other school events.
“Practice can be tough,” she said. “But this group is very talented and equipped to handle it.”
The team also includes juniors Kiersten Banks, Kenzie Hamilton, Kloe Holman, Kaylee Lowry, Ryleigh Lynch, Kylee McClay, London Mills, Avery Parker, and Lauren Slaton.
Krista Baca, Aubrie Bowling, Katelyn Gann, Taylor Honeman, Izzie Jones, Kynlie Langerman, and Lauren Taylor are the team’s sophomores.
“We’re better this year than we’ve been in the past,” Cornelius said. “Half of the team is new, but we have a had a lot of team bonding activities. We have a lot of talent and have really come together.”
Walker says she personally believes in bringing more to light the competitive side of cheer as well as continuing to be involved throughout the community. They had over 120 athletes try out from seventh grade to 12th, including 50 for the high school squad.
“That’s a lot more than in the past,” she said. “We’ve been trying really hard to get into the beginning stages of cheerleading in the community. We’ve had a community education class, youth cheer association… Coach (Lee) Blankenship is doing the same thing with football, so let’s do it as well.”
Walker is especially impressed with her team going into this weekend’s competition. She wants fans of other sports to understand how much work the squad’s athletes have put in for regionals and state.
“Our kids don’t get a lot of recognition,” she said. “They put in so much time and effort for others and they’re out here doing things that are extremely hard. Yes, you see them on the sideline or at halftime, but you don’t see them waking up every morning at 6 a.m. to put together a routine to compete against the best of the best in 6A.
“They’re an incredible team and what they do shouldn’t be taken lightly.”