BANDON — When Bandon disbanded its dance team a couple of years ago, the goal was to create a competitive cheer program.
That goal comes to fruition Saturday, albeit a week later than expected, when Bandon competes in the state championships for the first time. The event had been scheduled for Saturday in Portland, but has been pushed back a week to Feb. 16 because of a winter storm.
“We are definitely excited for state,” said Carley Deslauriers, one of the team captains. “It’s new, but it’s fun.”
Getting to this point has been a lot of work.
Jordan Chandler is in her third year coaching the squad. Last summer, she decided this would be the time for the team to make its competition debut.
“I thought I’ve got a pretty great team this year,” she said. “We’re going to jump into it. There’s no time like the present.”
The Tigers hired a choreographer last fall to plan their first routine and have been working hard ever since, not just on the routine, but on the other elements of competitive cheer — tumbling and stunting.
“We’ve learned a ton,” Chandler said. “It’s been an experience.
“A lot of these girls have been going since May. It’s a long time. It’s a big commitment.”
“We’ve been working well to accomplish what we have so far,” Deslauriers said.
Bandon had its first two competitions the two weekends before the state championships were originally scheduled, and they became huge learning experiences for the squad, which includes nine girls and one alternate.
“Our first competition was definitely the most anxious of all,” said Jazmine Smith, the other captain. “Getting out there and getting the experience and doing what we do was amazing.”
Things were a little better the second weekend as the team got more experience in front of a crowd.
“It helped us out a lot,” Chandler said. “Judging and scoring, it’s new to me, so I learned a lot and they learned a lot.”
As important as becoming familiar with competing in front of a crowd was getting feedback from the judges — both for ways to improve the routine and to reinforce what Chandler has been trying to teach the team.
“Having that second feedback … it’s always nice to hear it from somebody else,” she said. “Sometimes it just makes it click better.”
The Tigers aren’t expecting great things in terms of placing in their first state championships, especially because of the skill set required to compete at the top level.
“For tumbling, it is really, really hard to get the points,” Smith said. “We don’t have the transportation or the funds to go to a gym a couple of times a week to learn to do tumbling. All we have are roundoffs and somersaults and cartwheels.”
The stunts are another matter. The Tigers have greatly improved in that area, especially in the past month, Smith said.
“We can do anything we put our mind to,” she said.
All the while, while learning the routine, the Tigers have been performing during basketball games.
“We’ve been working so hard on our competition team trying to get ready for state,” Deslauriers said. “We’ve been doing so good pushing through.”
This weekend, the Tigers are hoping to have a good time and do their best.
“I’m not expecting a first-place trophy,” Smith said. “I’m not expecting to place in the top five.
“I am expecting my team to do the best that they can.”
And with only one senior on the team, the Tigers will hope to take another step next year.
“I really want the girls to go out there and have a really good experience — get out there and experience what state is,” Chandler said. “Next year will be better.”
Bandon’s squad includes senior Kortney Ferreri, who has been working double duty as a member of both the basketball and cheer teams; juniors Deslauriers, Smith, Jade Herrin, Samantha Marsh and Veronica Himmelrick; sophomore Hannah Bristow; freshmen Emma Hausler and Jennifer Himmelrick; and alternate Autumn Davis, another junior.
Chandler praised the Bandon community, which has made it so the girls don’t have to pay any personal expenses in what can be a spendy sport.
She also praised her assistant, Cheyenne Watkins, who graduated from Bandon in 2011, a year before Watkins — both were part of Bandon’s dance team.
“She has been so amazing, right at my side this whole time,” Chandler said. “I could not have done this without her.”
Bandon competes in the morning session at the Memorial Coliseum on Feb. 16, along with 15 other teams in the Class 3A-2A-1A division, 10 in the Class 4A ranks and eight in Class 5A.
The session starts at 9 a.m. and the Tigers are scheduled to hit the mat at 12:10 p.m., with only three teams to follow them.
The Class 6A and coed teams compete in the afternoon.
Admission for each session is $14.50 for adults and $9 for students.