SPOKANE - In only their second year competing, the Mead High School Cheer squad - and Colville Tribal member Darah Swan - placed third at the WIAA State Cheerleading Championships 4A Non-Tumbling Medium, Feb. 7, and it felt like the program was on the up and up.
Then COVID-19 shutdown schools across the state, and with the closure of schools came the cancellations of practices.
Not to be outdone, Swan, a junior, and her teammates have become creative.
“Being the upcoming seniors, we have to take videos and send them out,” Swan said. “I could only imagine that it would be kind of stressful for the newcomers.”
In stressful and unprecedented times, Swan and her fellow seniors are doing everything they can to be good teammates and help prepare upcoming peers for next year’s competitions.
“Darah has blossomed over her past three years into such a strong leader,” said Mead Cheer Coach Katherine Melka. “Darah isn't someone who has to be the center of attention and doesn't necessarily lead by telling people what to do.”
This year, Mead’s Cheer squad will lose 11 seniors, and the program is looking for Swan and her fellow underclassman to step into those holes.
“I love that Darah leads by example in her work ethic, always comes to practice prepared and is there for her teammates with encouragement and critiques that help them be the best they can be.”
Leaving the state competition with third has made the team hungry.
“It was pretty incredible,” said Swan, a junior on the Mead Cheer team.
“Getting third at state this year was a big deal for us. The way the girls were able to pull through and put out an awesome routine was really exciting, and I was very proud of them.”
It wasn’t an easy road and nothing was given.
“The girls were spending early mornings practicing as well as late nights cheering basically six days per week,” said Melka. “To make it to state, you have to qualify with a high enough score at a regular season competition, on top of their academics, which they are also held to a very high standard in.”
What made this year so special is how far this team has come in the past few years.
Last year, in their first year of competition, the team placed seventh. The third place finish comes as a step toward bigger goals.
“We were up against some really tough teams, and had been dealing with a lot of injury and sickness leading up to state. It had become a big improvement for the program and especially because it was only the second year that we had been doing competitions, it was pretty incredible,” said Swan.
And next year, staying connected via video, the team looks for more success.
Swan is the daughter of Joe Bear Swan and Cindy Thomas.