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West High School cheer team competes for national title

Posted at 2:19 PM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 16:19:50-05

SALT LAKE CITY — West High School’s competitive cheerleading team will compete in the USA Spirit Nationals this Friday in Anaheim, California.

The team hasn’t been to the nationals in five years.

“It doesn’t feel real,” says Josie Counter, who is one of 14 high school students on the team.

Their journey to this point hasn’t been easy as the team has endured injuries, fundraising challenges, and long practices.

“We’re here every other morning before school starts, practicing for hours,” explained teammate Hero Sargent.

They usually practice from 6 a.m. - 10 a.m., according to Shayla Welsch, former cheerleader turned coach.

She said they’ve recently ramped up practice to six days a week in order to prepare for the national competition.

While Welsch has been coaching for nine years, this is her first year at West High School.

She said she’s proud of her team which she considers more like family. Not just for the physical skills they’ve developed, but for their growth in other ways.

“I see a crazy amount of maturity that comes from these kids from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Welsch says.

Parents like Jessica Johnson have noticed a change under Welsch’s leadership.

“Exponential growth this year would be the best way to put it,” explains Johnson. “These girls are really talented to begin with, and Shayla has been able to bring that out in them.”

When asked if they have a shot at winning, Sargent said with a smile, “I am not going to put anything negative in the air, so I am going to say yes.”

If the team places in the top five during Friday’s competition, they will make it to the finals on Saturday.

However, their season doesn’t end there. Cheer is a year-round sport and recruitment starts just a few weeks after they compete.

Welsch added that a lot of the team’s ongoing success and competition attendance depends on their year-round fundraisers.

You learn more and donate here.