Shortly after leaving the floor of Gallagher-Iba Arena following its performance in the Class 6A state championship, the entire Stillwater cheer squad turned to coach Carolyn Walstad and asked, “Is it Nagoya time?”
All week Walstad had asked only one thing from her team — a clean routine — even bribing them with food for perfection. Now Walstad has to pay up.
“We’re all going to Nagoya because we hit a perfect routine,” Ally Key said. “We didn’t drop anything and that was our goal. It was just a good, clean routine, so we’re all going out to eat.”
Despite a nearly flawless routine with the pressure of hundreds of friends and family members in the stands, Stillwater didn’t take home any hardware. Tulsa Union took home the championship with precise timing and a tumbling routine that would rival several colleges.
“I am so proud of these girls,” Walstad said. “The girls did everything that I asked and prepared them for. It’s not really about the place, it’s about the people in the stands who supported us. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t win, so I’ll be anxious to get the scores back. We did everything that we could do within our control. You can’t control the judges and how they score you, but we did a clean routine, so the girls are very proud.”
Even though they didn’t place, senior Katherine Weeks said that performing in front of the local fans was worth all the hard work.
“It feels so great to know the hard work paid off,” Weeks said. “It was so awesome to hear the crowd chanting for us when we came out and to know that they were there for us.”
The hundreds of fans clad in Pioneer blue not only energized Stillwater, but it also put them at ease.
“You’re always nervous when you go into an arena like this,” Madison Wedel said. “It was nice being at home and in front of the home crowd. It really gets your adrenaline going.”
While the season may be over, Walstad said they’re already planning a return trip next season.
“My juniors have come up to me and said ‘We want full squads, standing backs and different levels of difficulty,” Walstad said. “Like I said, we maxed out the scorecard as much as we could. There’s little things that you can do to choreography that meets the judges’ eye.”
So now the only one question remains. Will Walstad make good on her offer?
“I dangled some carrots in front of the girls and told them if they did a clean routine, we would be celebrating at Nagoya,” Walstad said. “We’re not going to tonight, but we will soon.”