Who Cheers For The Cheerleaders?


Tyler Hall

You see us on the track, mat and court cheering on our athletic programs, but who cheers for us? Why do we not see the same appreciation and support that other sports do at West High?

Ali Parkhurst, Reporter

“Sometimes we get caught up in all the problems and forget to see the good things around us,” says Dr. Thomas Ulses, West Highs Athletic Director, as he wraps up the winter activity assembly on Monday Mar. 6. But as we left the auditorium, a group of girls could only focus on the problem around them, cheerleaders were left out of the assembly. 

During the assembly, all winter sports and activities were announced, including a performance from the dance team and speeches from girls bowling and dance. As the teams made their way up and down the stage, the cheerleaders were confused, no one told us we would be announced, no one was prepared for a speech. As the assembly wrapped up, the confusion turned to disappointment, sadness and frustration. 

Cheer is almost a year-round sport, from tryouts in April to summer practices and two consecutive seasons. Although we put in a lot of work throughout the year, we are recognized only at fall and winter kickoff. As we are brushed under the rug during events like this, it damages the spirit we are expected to bring to our school. How can we cheer for them when there is no one to cheer for us? 

When asked, Ulses says, “The main focus of our Winter celebration was to recognize our State Tournament competitors.” Although the boys basketball team were not state competitors, they were honored at the assembly because they were substate finalists and “won the 2nd most games at West High since 1986” according to Ulses. He states that the assembly was not intended to shadow student athletes who were a part of a team but did not go to state. 

Senior Dalanie Kresser prepares herself to tumble in the Bob Siddens gym during the girls basketball ‘Ticket Punch’ game against Waukee. (Ali Parkhurst )

Four year returning cheerleader Dalanie Kresser, is seen tumbling on the track and court during football and basketball games. Towards the end of the 2022-23 basketball season, Kresser was approached by a coach from Wartburg, requesting for Kresser to join their cheer team as she went on into college. Kresser has dedicated her life to being a cheerleader, cheering two seasons through an ankle injury, persisting through pain for West High. 

Kresser notes the lack of recognition herself and her team receive, she says it was disappointing watching every other sport and activity get some sort of recognition as her and her team waited for their turn. Kresser says that she wouldn’t trade being a cheerleader for anything and that she has cherished the time she has spent with her team. However, “Not being recognized made it feel like the school didn’t appreciate our support,” she said. Kresser has traveled to the Wells Fargo arena each year as the girls basketball team made their way to state. Kresser was also a part of the Iowa Honors Cheer Team in the 2021-22 school year. Despite making the Honors team, Kresser as well as the two other cheerleaders, still saw no appreciation from the school. 

As she has cheered throughout high school, she has noticed the decrease in students trying out for the team each year. “The lack of support from the school makes it harder and harder to get students to try out every year. Us being recognized for what we do could help spread the word,” Kresser states. 

Last year, Kresser pushed for West High to have a competitive cheer team and attempted to get the girls to the state competition but fell short just weeks before. She saw the assembly as a great way to recognize and congratulate the other teams who have made it to state this season, but says it felt unfair to the cheer team. “We don’t have the funding it takes to participate at the state level,” she says. 

For the 2021-22 school year, the Wahawk cheer team attempted to make their way to the state competition. Just weeks before the competition took place, our assistant coach and competition coach was removed, forfeiting us from the competition. Even though we did not make it, the funding came directly from four different fundraisers we did throughout the season, proving Kresser’s mention of the lack of funding the cheer program receives. 

Wrestling cheerleaders after the second day of the state wrestling tournament where Cooper Paxton and Anell Kudic wrestled for the last time. (Allison Jones)

After a setback in the beginning of winter season this year, the basketball cheer team was left to rebuild itself from scratch with only three returning cheerleaders. As we struggled to keep numbers, all eyes went to wrestling cheerleaders Emalee Brasch (senior), Ali Parkhurst (junior) and Ally Knight (junior) to fill in the empty spots. As the three of us balanced cheering for two sports at once, we faced many mental challenges. 

During the first week of cheering for both sports, we had a full schedule. Including the Metro wrestling tournament, winter kickoff, tryouts, a practice, the East v West basketball game as well as an additional wrestling tournament the next day. As we cheered for six out of the seven days of the week, the three of us faced burnout within the first week of the season, setting us back for the months that would follow. 

Ulses says the assembly was not meant to diminish the cheerleaders in any way. Although the intention in the assembly was to honor the successes our winter sports have accomplished, the cheer team cannot help but feel the disappointment as we are the only group left out. Many view cheer as a less-than sport, but as we put our mental and physical health aside to cheer on West High, we are growing tired of being ignored and dismissed. 

The Wahawk cheerleaders have cheered our teams on to state tournaments, cheered through losses and have been there for every win. As we show up for the Wahawk athletics, who shows up for us?