Cerro Gordo County Iowa
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Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Thursday, March 10, 2016
MASON CITY - Mason City High School’s newest cheerleading and dance team was all smiles Thursday morning amidst a flurry of hot pink and black pompoms.
The team let out a whoop at the end of their routine as Charlene Lytle nailed her freeze, an advanced hip-hop move that requires her to suspend her body off the floor.
The 11 teens are part of the school’s first Unified Special Olympics cheerleading team, which promotes social inclusion as it joins girls with and without disabilities for shared sports training and competition experiences.
As they kneeled on the gym floor, seniors Alaina Berg and Abby Wiese faced the team as they coached them through the kicks, jumps and formations in their routine.
Both girls participate in Best Buddies, which creates one-on-one friendships and other opportunities for students with disabilities. Berg is co-president of Mason City's program.
“I wanted to be able to share cheer with others who may not have the opportunity,” Wiese said.
Sophomore Lauren Lunning, Wiese’s buddy, said she’s enjoyed her first cheerleading experience and likes being part of the team.
“I’m nervous but a little bit excited,” she said of their performance that morning for the school’s 26th annual Special Olympics assembly.
The cheerleaders — along with two of the high school’s basketball teams — are preparing for the Iowa Special Olympics Mid-Winter Tournament March 11-12 in Iowa City.
The event draws more than 1,000 athletes and Unified Sports partners, who compete in cheerleading, gymnastics, powerlifting and basketball.
Berg says the team will take to the mat with a routine that’s “really fast, exciting and full of motion.” Rachel Platten’s “Stand by You” further solidifies their group’s message of supporting each other.
With matching purple T-shirts and white bandannas, the girls look every bit the part. Their uniforms were funded by an anonymous donation, Berg said.
Nicole Deal, who manages the school’s Special Olympics program, says Berg and the other student coaches have been “fabulous.”
“At first, the girls were apprehensive,” she said. “They thought they wouldn’t be good enough, but they’ve all learned the dance, and, now, they really are a team.
“We want to show the kids, even though these students are different, they can do things like everyone else.”
Mason City High School Unified cheer/dance Team members: Keisha Hardy, Natalia Cadena, Charlene Lytle, Lauren Dettmer, Maggie Johnson, Nadya Rosenberger, Alexis Bramley, Morgan Willman, Paige Gramowski, Lauren Smith and Lauren Lunning.
Student coaches: Alaina Berg, Abby Wiese and Morgan Willmann.
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2014
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