Sports

Decatur cheerleaders finish second in state

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Decatur High School’s Laurie Beaver isn’t the easiest coach to get along with. The Gators’ cheerleading coach will admit it.

“I make them follow the rules and I am a real stickler on their character,” said Beaver.

But cheerleading coaches from across the state thought enough of Beaver’s style to name her the Washington State Cheer Coach of the Year at the group’s annual conference in Yakima April 26.

“It was very cool,” Beaver said. “I was totally surprised. I thought I knew who was getting it.”

Beaver has been coaching cheerleaders at the high-school level for the past 12 years in Federal Way — five years at Federal Way High School and the last seven at Decatur. She also coached cheer for the Federal Way Hawks for seven years.

“I told the kids when I came back that this was their award for buying into the program,” said Beaver. “It is them representing Decatur and myself. The people voting were voting on the whole program, not just me.”

Beaver’s teaching goes beyond the stereotypical cheerleader. Before every practice, she has her girls read passages from the book, “Unshakable Character,” which includes daily lessons on life.

“I think you need to build a firm foundation on who you are. I like them to have some type of foundation. It builds them as a team and helps them appreciate each other.”

A big reason the state’s cheer coaches recognized Beaver came in late March. That is when Beaver’s Decatur High School cheerleading squad placed second at the annual Washington State All-Girl Large Varsity championships.

The competition, held at Ballard High School in Seattle, had to include a nearly three-minute routine of cheering, dancing, stunting, jumping and kicking. Kelso High School placed first in the competition.

“It was a cool thing for us,” said Beaver. “It was the first time we ever went to it and we only lost by two points. The week before (Kelso) had won a national competition and they have been doing it for five years. Their coach came up and said some amazing things.”

Decatur’s competition squad was made up of 18 girls who chose to participate. Beaver estimates the team put in about 100 hours of practice above and beyond the normal cheering at basketball games, wrestling matches and other school-sponsored events.

“That is why I made it a choice,” she said. “It was pretty amazing to do. It was intense. I have an amazing group of young women.”

The Gators plan on competing again next year, according to Beaver.

“At first they were just exhausted. Now, it’s all they can talk about.”

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