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By Ben Lasseter
Sanpete has more than one reason to be proud of its sports teams.
In the 2021 state cheer competition, North Sanpete won the 3A co-ed show division state championship and took third in timeout cheer. Manti took second and third in the 3A all-girl show cheer and fight song divisions, respectively. North Sanpete also took second in co-ed region, taking first in timeout cheer. Manti won the all-girl region, taking first in all-girl show cheer and school fight song.
Both teams did it despite losing cheerleaders and practice time due to COVID-19.
North Sanpete pulled off their accomplishment despite losing two cheerleaders due to grade issues and cheerleader Sharlee Sorensen dying in a car accident.
Sorensen’s death prompted the team to put her initials on their uniform and dedicate their homecoming performance to her. About every two weeks since October, someone on the team had been quarantined. Coach Syndi Wilkey herself was even unable to be at region competition because she was quarantined.
“Really, it was up to them,” Wilkey said. “Region week was the worst, for sure.”
It wasn’t finalized that the two cheerleaders wouldn’t make grades until just two days before region. Then, four more cheerleaders had to quarantine. It meant that North Sanpete had to entirely change its routine only a week before region.
Then, North Sanpete had to do the same thing only three days before state, after losing two more cheerleaders, including co-captain Halle Church, that Wednesday. The other captain, Lexi Welch, had to fly, or be tossed in the air, at state despite never having flown before.
“It was insane,” Wilkey said. “As a coach, I felt for her … that’s a lot of pressure … all eyes are on you as a flyer.”
Manti Coach Trisha Hyde said that her team was quarantined for the whole month of December, when both coaches also were out.
To deal with it, the team put in many extra practices. It did virtual tryouts, did online workouts together and committed to many late nights.
“We went over our routines virtually over Zoom and just did the best that we could,” Hyde said.
The week after Christmas was the first time in nearly three months that Hyde had her entire team, Hyde said.
The competitions marked the first time Hyde’s team ever competed.
“I’m just proud that we even made it to compete at all,” Hyde said.
The all-girl and co-ed show divisions are like the overall win of the cheer world. Cheer does have several categories in which kids can compete, but those two divisions are really the only divisions that are recognized as state wins, Wilkey said.
North Sanpete was treated to a well-deserved parade on Saturday night, from Fairview to the high school. Principal Christy Straatman, Football Coach Rhett Bird, Athletic Director Cheryl Hadley, Bingham football coach Dave Peck, NSHS student body officers, members of the Mt. Pleasant and Fairview fire departments and District Superintendent Nan Ault were there, among others.
“We Are the Champions” was playing on a stereo and the bus driver blasted a playlist he made in anticipation of the title. (That same bus driver bought a shirt that he had each member of the team sign.)
“It was a neat experience—one they will never forget, for sure,” Wilkey said. “I think when someone is appreciated, they can move mountains.”
Peck, who helped Wilkey with a mindset of being focused on her athletes first, said he wouldn’t miss the parade for the world. Bird said that the tables were turned in that the football team was in support of the cheerleaders when it’s opposite almost 100 percent of the time.