Kilgore places 4th in state

Kilgore+Cheerleaders+performing+at+the+UIL+competition.+

Sarah Nash

Kilgore Cheerleaders performing at the UIL competition.

Addi Wood, Staff Writer

The announcer introduces your school and then you and your cheer team run on the mat, the lights blare your eyes as you spirit and smile your biggest. This is the day you have been preparing for months. You hear everyone in the dome cheering you on, and then your music turns on. The whole performance feels like a blur until you step off the mat completely out of breath.

“On the mat is one of the best feelings in the world but yet the scariest at the same time,” junior and cheer captain Riley Thompson said. “The nerves and adrenaline overwhelms you as you step on and prepare yourself to perform the routine. The crowd and judges stare at you as the music begins and the whole team gives their all for the next 3 minutes.” 

Kilgore Cheer went and competed at the 2021 UIL cheer competition on January 15. After a day full of cheering and waiting for results after their first performance,  the top 20 were out of the 62 who that competed that day were announced.

¨When we got into finals the team was so excited and I felt a relief of stress,” freshman cheerleader Kenzington Eubanks said.Honestly, our real goal was to make it to finals at all. KHS Cheer has never actually made it to finals. Last year they made 21st place and every year our goal is to make it higher than the year before, this year we made it into the top 12, so we were just proud of that.¨ 

During prelims, the first performance is to see if a team makes finals, the music stopped playing for KHS in the middle of the Fight Song.  Captain Riley started counting and the girls continued performing like nothing was wrong and kept going. Even though there were technical difficulties, coach Nikki Offerding felt like she had failed her girls. When she got to meet up with them afterwards though, the girls were there for her instead. 

¨Technology is never promising enough to ensure that your music won’t stop,” Thompson said. “We are told that no matter what happens to me we stop and keep going. When our music stopped during our fight song my heart rate raised as my stomach dropped. Instinctively I began to count out loud for the team. The whole team kept going as if nothing had ever happened and it was completely normal. I’m beyond proud of my team and the faith they had in me at that very moment to trust I was doing the right thing and follow through with it.¨ 

After prelims and finals, you wait for the announcer to call down the top 10 teams out of the 20 who were in finals. He calls them out in random order and the whole room goes quiet hoping to hear their school´s name.

¨When our team was announced to go to the mat for the top 10 teams out of 62 teams who competed in Division 4A in Texas, I was ecstatic,” Nikki Offerding said. “Standing on the mat with my two captains Jaiden Thompson and Riley Thompson is a feeling I will never forget. We were with teams who have scored in the top 10 for 4-5 years straight. It was an honor being named with them.¨ 

Then when all teams are down on the performing mat, awards for first place in Band Chant, Cheer, and Fight Song are given out. Kilgore got first place in the Fight Song. The announcer then will start calling out  the overall places. He starts from 10th place and ends at 1st.

¨Hearing our school´s name being called for top 10, we all screamed,” Eubanks said. “As they counted down the  places, it kept getting better.  I got so excited and anxious once I realized they called 5th place and our name still hasn’t been called yet. Then our team heard ‘4th place Kilgore High School Cheer’ we all screamed and hugged each other.¨

Kilgore Cheer placing in finals and getting first place in Fight Song is ground breaking. Never before in history has the cheer team ever gotten this successful in competition. 

¨UIL Spirit started in 2016 and in the beginning it was a rough start for Kilgore from being disqualified or not being able to attend the competition. These past few years we have gone and improved greatly at each competition. Kilgore got many firsts this year- making finals, making top 10, placing 4th in State, and getting 1st in a category,¨ Nikki Offerding said.

Though this is Nikki Offerding´s third year as the Kilgore Cheer coach. Offerding is no new face in the Kilgore community, she was a gym coach at the Kilgore Intermediate for 7 years till she eventually moved to the high school in 2019 to become the cheer coach as well as a teacher. Due to this, her cheerleaders already knew her from her being their gym teacher in past years. She also has a daughter, Kylie Offerding, who is a high school cheerleader. Because of this a lot of Kylie Offerding’s best friends know Nikki Offerding like a mother to them

¨Having my mom as my coach has been interesting to say the least,” sophomore cheerleader Kylie Offerding said. “It has definitely been hard to differentiate between when she’s my mom and my coach. I know that the girls who grew up with me have had the same problem. To those girls she’s a second mom and that can be a problem for them when it comes to practice time to not call her ‘Mrs. Nikki’. Coach O treats everyone the same across the board. And that is what makes her such a good coach. Because she doesn’t have to choose between family and the cheerleaders, because the cheerleaders are family to her. 

Nikki Offerding made competition a constant for Kilgore Cheer when she became coach. Though they weren’t always successful, each year they improved to get to where they are today. Kilgore Cheer had only competed two years before Nikki Offering became the cheer coach, 2016 and 2017. Since then, Kilgore Cheer has been on a three year streak of going to competition.

“Anyone who knows my mom will tell you that she’s very passionate about cheer,” Kylie Offerding said. “It’s what she’s done her whole life. Anyone who knows me, will tell you the same thing about me. I love that one thing we get to bond over is cheer, but it also means she’s going to push me to be my very very best. Same goes with every girl on the squad. Coach O definitely teaches us lessons on hard work, determination, not quitting, and pushing through even when it gets hard. She never gives up on us! Thank you Coach O for teaching me many lessons on and off the mat, in and out of the house, and being the best mom/ coach around! I love you.¨ 

The Kilgore cheer program has changed a lot since Nikki Offerding has become the coach. She has worked so hard to get this program where it is today and it’s paid off with her being the first Kilgore cheer coach to have a team go to finals and place.

¨I am so proud of these girls for multiple reasons. It’s been a difficult season, as many teams have had, but they overcame the adversity and grew stronger as a team. It doesn’t matter how many awards a team has or how talented they are if they don’t have good sportsmanship and character, the other doesn’t matter. These girls have become not just a team but a cheer family,¨ Nikki Offerding said.