NORTH BEND — Longtime North Bend cheer coach Lena Franson said she would not make North Bend’s competition squad into a coed squad unless the Bulldogs had several boys.
Kaleb Haney changed her mind.
The sophomore tried out for the team last spring, and got better and better. Franson finally decided to have the Bulldogs compete as a coed group, even with just the one boy.
“He’s worked so hard since he came on,” Franson said. “He’s a good fit.”
The Bulldogs compete at state as a coed team for the first time Saturday at Memorial Coliseum in Portland. North Bend is in the coed small division, the division determined by the number of athletes on the team, not the size of the school — 16 of the 18 teams are in Class 5A or Class 6A.
Haney, who has a background in gymnastics, said he was recruited by a friend on the team who thought he would be a natural because of his tumbling skills.
“It’s been really fun,” said Haney, who also plays soccer and competes in track and field. “It’s hard work. It’s a lot of details.”
He fell in love with the sport.
“I’m going to do it every year now,” he said.
Amie Brecheisen, the Bulldogs’ senior captain, said Haney has been a great addition to the team, especially with his personality.
“He definitely lightens the mood and makes everyone happy,” she said.
The concepts of the team’s routine haven’t changed with the addition of Haney, she said. The team’s stunting ability has.
“When we stunt, our basket (tosses) are higher,” she said. “He’s physically able to do things we can’t.”
Haney is one of six sophomores on the team, which has just two seniors and two juniors.
“We’re a super young team,” Brecheisen said.
But despite the team’s youth, Brecheisen said it’s been a great season.
“This year, I’ve had a lot more fun,” she said. “Our team really meshes together. It’s nice to have such a supportive group.”
“They seem to click really well,” she said.
The team was in two pre-state competitions, placing second in the first one, but not placing in the second when the Bulldogs had major errors on a couple of stunts.
Brecheisen is excited about Saturday.
“I think if we work hard this week, we have a chance of placing,” she said.
It will be difficult, with the talent level and experience of a number of the Class 5A and 6A schools in the division.
“It will be what it will be,” Franson said. “As long as they know they did their best, I’ll be happy.”
The Bulldogs include Brecheisen and Haney; senior Crystal Ayala; juniors Calli Fox and Jasmine Gilispie; and sophomores Macie Peterson, Kaitlyn Stark, Kiara Conway, Laecee Thies and Gracelynn LeBlanc.
The Bulldogs compete in the afternoon session at Memorial Coliseum. North Bend is scheduled to be on the mat at 2:40 p.m.