FSP cheer

Pictured is the 2021-2022 Panther cheerleading squad. Left to right, front row: Riley Manny, Britton Kozlowski, Kaydence Bale, Amber Duran, Hope Winton and NaTaya Osborne. Middle row: Rylee Silva, Elyssa Kreutzer, Alexis Stanton, Layla Ulmer, Jamie Johnson and Valerie Stubbs. Back row: Ana Self, Keegan Little, Briana Roland, Kaitlyn Reid, Brendan Hull and Juanaliz Valles.

There will be no shortage of experience for the Derby High School cheerleaders this year. With six veteran seniors leading the group, they have the maturity and understanding of the routines to make it a special year, said coach Kari Schott.

“We have a great group. They work well together and they give their all for each other and the team,” she said.

The senior group is made up of Hope Winton, Nataya Osborne, Gracie Duran, Riley Manny and Britton Kozlowski.

As of press time, there was no opponent for the Sept. 3 football game, so their first public appearance will be the Sept. 10 game – and they’ll be ready, Schott said. They also will have a pep assembly earlier that day.

They’re eager to move into a new school year as the COVID-19 pandemic affected some of last year’s activities; however, the team showed perseverance, Schott said.

“Somehow, someway we came through this,” she said. “We kept right on trucking and we didn’t slow down.”

The key during the height of the COVID situation was flexibility because things were constantly subject to change.

“They stepped up during it,” Schott said.

In a way, cheering was a great outlet for the members because at times their world was somewhat of a “crazy place,” she said.

For this year, the cheerleaders got a taste of what they work for during a pep assembly for freshmen in mid-August.

“What an awesome feeling that was,” she said.

Cheering at DHS is almost a full-year experience as the young women take part in fall and winter sports, extending into March with basketball.

Then there are tryouts and more practice and a summer camp, but all the hard work pays off, she said.

The team attended the National Cheerleaders Association Camp on the Oklahoma State campus in Stillwater, Okla., where it was nominated for an All-American award and was voted as the top cheer team and the most spirited team by other teams and coaches.

“That’s the best award you could win,” she said.

Also, one of the members, junior Alexis Stanton, was recognized as an individual All-American.

“That’s a huge honor,” she said.

Schott credits a supportive administration and district for much of the squad’s success.

“The Derby school district is phenomenal,” she said. “They treat us well and are very supportive.”

Schott, who has been involved in the program for six years, is assisted by Josie King.

Schott is a 1996 DHS graduate and also cheered at Southwestern College.

She also ran the Upward cheer program at South Rock Christian Church for 15 years.

Currently, she also works in the Parents as Teachers program.

Being a part of the team is a major time commitment, but Schott said team members do well keeping up with their class work, which they are required to, along with community events.

They also work closely with the Pantherettes dance team during sporting events.

It’s an exciting time for the cheerleaders, she said, and this should be a standout year for the highly motivated squad. They have a simple, straightforward objective.

“They just want to keep on cheering,” Schott said.

David Dinell is a guest reporter and columnist for the Derby Informer. 

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Reporter/Columnist

David Dinell is a guest reporter and columnist for the Derby Informer.

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