Cheer: Searching for a competitive edge
North Marion cheerleaders Rose Rostocil and Taylor Bundy were elementary school students the last time the Huskies' cheer program won a state championship. As the pair prepares to enter their senior year, they have one last chance to experience the elation of winning a state title of their own this spring at the 2018 state championship competition at Portland Memorial Coliseum.
But they're not waiting until competition season begins this winter. In order to claim their spot at the top of the 4A field, Rostocil, Bundy and the rest of the North Marion cheer squad must outwork and out-prepare the other teams in their class, and that means getting in the best shape of their lives.
"Cheer works your whole body, more than people would know," Rostocil said.
The cheer teammates were two of more than a dozen participants in the annual Husky Boot Camp that ran weekday mornings from July 10-23 at North Marion High School. The camp is a summer workout series led by high school football coach Doug Bilodeau that's designed to give participants an outlet to stay active over the lulls of summer and jumpstart the coming fall athletic season.
Though the camp is available to all ages, from elementary school students all the way up to parents, the majority of people who participate are typically incoming high school students looking to get that athletic edge for the competitive seasons to come.
"I definitely feel like it's helped me a lot more," Bundy said. "I definitely feel like I'm going to be stronger next year in cheer."
Campers are led through a variety of intensive workouts that use nothing more than the weight of their bodies to provide resistance. Workouts begin with cardiovascular exercises to warm up before the kids are led through strength-based drills. The goal is to give the participating athletes not just a two-week boost, but to teach them training techniques that they can take home and replicate without a coach or expensive workout equipment.
Workouts last little more than an hour, with warmups and cooldown exercises extending each camp session to a full 90 minutes. At the end of each workout, Bilodeau gives the campers a fun exercise to cool down with. Sometimes it's a game of tag football or flipping tractor tires or even greased watermelon relays.
It's fun, but more importantly, it's difficult, pushing the limits of each athlete's abilities.
"This works out your whole body, so it really helps build up the strength you need," Rostocil said.
Rostocil and Bundy were the only two girls participating in the final week of the camp and held their own against the male-majority campers, going toe-to-toe in the exercising and chasing down loose balls during football scrimmages.
"They're right there with them," Bilodeau said. "There's no dropoff, and they have no problem working with the guys."
The boot camp is the final summer exercise before moratorium week this week, where coaches are not allowed to contact athletes. Afterward, fall season begins Aug. 1 for the cheer team and every other fall program.
Though cheer is technically a winter sport, the fall season gives the cheerleaders an opportunity to practice by cheering on Friday nights for the football team.
"Football is basically our warmup season," Bundy said. "We'll pull the dances from football season and put them into our routine for competitions, using all the same moves and stuff."
The North Marion cheerleaders have a lot of work to reclaim their former glory as the best small 4A program in the state.
When the OSAA reclassified itself in 2006, going from four classifications to six, the North Marion cheer program benefited greatly. The shift in classes created a sixth championship category, splitting the state cheer competition and moving the Huskies from the 3A small competition to the 4A small competition.
After finishing second place in three of the previous four years, the North Marion cheer program became juggernauts. The Huskies won the 2007 state championship in the 4A small division and went on to defend their crown five times, winning championships from 2007 to 2012.
Since Rostocil and Bundy entered high school in 2015, the Huskies have placed second, third and fourth, respectively, in the past three seasons.
Last year's team finished less than 10 points behind state champion Gladstone in the final standings, and the Huskies are looking for every competitive edge to help make up the difference. Perhaps Husky Boot Camp will be it.
"It's been the time of my life...and pretty much hell," Rostocil said, laughing.
Rostocil and Bundy will be finishing up their senior season in the next 10 months, but they're hoping to get more cheerleaders involved with Boot Camp next year to pass the baton onto the next class of athletes — and hopefully as defending state champions.