ELKO — Spirit, enthusiasm and athleticism come in all shapes and sizes.
Team Gold Rush, the Cheer Abilities Team from Silver State Studios, recently won two awards at the US All Star Federation cheer competitions in Utah. This team — the only one of its kind in the area — is composed entirely of students with intellectual or physical disabilities.
The newly formed competitive cheer team traveled to Ogden in February and came home with the superior stunt award. They went to Salt Lake City in March and received a performance award along with receiving their champion cheerleader jackets.
According to their coach, Brook Lowe, they practice and perform the same as any other cheer teams do. Lowe, who is a local art teacher, started the competitive cheer team after teaching or meeting some team members through her school. The team promotes learning, physical fitness and social connections.
They are currently working on advancing their skills and techniques and improving their tumbling, stunting and conditioning jumps.
“They’ve come so far and they’re bonding together. It builds up a level of trust. They have started stunting and doing more advanced techniques,” said Lowe.
Assistant Coach Steph Tyree added that the team was initially formed by reaching out to special needs teachers at the schools.
“Some teachers paid for their uniforms, some teachers even paid their tuition. Seriously, the community came out and just paid for them to be able to do this, so it’s really awesome and they’ve competed twice,” said Tyree.
The social connection and recognition at competitions has been significant for team members.
“It’s literally the best thing she’s ever done,” said Monica Heskin about her daughter, Madison McCurdy. “Her sense of self-esteem is amazing, her confidence is incredible, and the friends; these are her best friends. It shows in their faces. Just to see their faces in that competition, we’ve never had the opportunity for just them.”
Heskin has also watched Madison’s physical capabilities improve since joining the cheer team.
“She couldn’t even do a somersault and she is doing a cartwheel now,” said Heskin.
Sarah Bundrock, mother of Justie Gines, says her daughter’s physical ability has improved and that attending competitions and seeing what other teams do is great incentive.
“She did her first reverse somersault. She sees other girls doing their tumbling at competitions and it excites her to think about the possibility of doing that,” said Bundrock.
The studio also participates in a mentorship program and utilizes junior coaches to help this team acclimate to the gym and practice their skills. The junior coaches each bring several years of experience in cheer and cheer competitions to the Cheer Abilities Team. They help with choreography, travel to competitions together and are often spotters when needed.
“They are seriously such an inspiration,” junior coach Kaylee Turner said of the team members. “They like push me to work harder in my own practice. They are always coming to practice with a smiling face. They seriously warm my heart.”
“It just makes me happy that they love what they’re doing. And they have friends now and everything,” said junior coach Chelsea Lowe.
Team Gold Rush will perform next at the Convention Center on May 22-23 along with the rest of the Silver State Studio members. The team is looking for and welcoming any special needs athletes for next season. There are no age, gender or ability restrictions.
For more information contact Silver State Studios at 777-7922.