1 year ago


The Frankfort Station 021617

50 | February 16, 2017 |

50 | February 16, 2017 | The frankfort station Sports Alumni Spotlight East grad closes curtain on competitive cheer career Van Gennep, Grand Valley State team gearing up for national competition Ryan Wallace Freelance Reporter Not long after completing four years of competitive cheer at Lincoln-Way East, Rachael Van Gennep could already sense a void in her life. She’d been competing since she was 5 years old, and she wasn’t ready to give it up. “Something was missing,” Van Gennep said. “I couldn’t miss out on a chance to compete in college … I had to try out.” Now, the 21-year-old is in the stretch run of her competitive cheer career at Grand Valley State University, a Division II school in Michigan, and is looking to go out on a high note. Van Gennep’s final performance will take place April 5-9 at the Division II National Cheerleaders Association Collegiate National Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. Van Gennep, who is a senior leader for the Grand Valley State team, said there was not a singular moment that made her realize cheering was her calling. Rather, it was the pursuit of meeting personal challenges and the electric feeling she felt after a strong performance that fueled her love. “I’ve just had a passion for cheerleading,” she said. “Watching older people perform, I just knew this is what I wanted to do. I love the energetic atmosphere and being able to go out on the floor and show people what we’ve been working so hard for.” Van Gennep said the sensation upon executing a near flawless routine is like no other. “Your body knows what ELITE SPORTS TRAINING ATHLETES INSIDE-OUT 815.221.6000 • Mar 11 - Apr 29 • Saturdays - 8 Weeks • $150-$180 per player • Ages 5-6 & 7-9 to do because you’ve built up the muscle memory, and you’re just in cruise control,” she said. “You don’t hold back, and you keep pushing though, and at the end you want to cry because you hit it.” Laying the foundation Van Gennep’s first foray into competitive cheer came at Lincoln-Way East. Her high school teams competed in seven competitions each year, which included conference, sectional and state competitions. Each year, the team would attempt to perfect one routine. While in high school, Van Gennep also competed on a Super All-Star travel squad consisting of cheerleaders from a collection of high schools in Illinois. The Super All-Stars twice competed in a national competition in Orlando. Van Gennep said the program at Lincoln-Way East was just starting to build some traction during her four years. “It wasn’t as elite as it is now,” she said. “But the coaches said we laid the foundation.” East won state championships in 2013-14, 2014-15 and most recently again this season. Motivated for last shot Upon joining the Grand Valley State competitive cheer team, Van Gennep had to make some adjustments. The first thing she tackled was becoming a better tumbler. “In high school you didn’t have to tumble, and when I started, I was a slow tumbler, and that can’t fly in college,” she said. “I had to constantly push myself until, eventually, it got easier.” She also liked that fact that competitions were drastically different. In high school, there was music and vocalization. But in college, it is all music, and the cheerleader just focuses on the routine. The Lakers cheer squad is in the midst of preparing for the national championships. While the team is working on its routine, the cheerleaders are also keeping themselves busy cheering at basketball games. Grand Valley State has experienced its share of ups and downs in Daytona Beach, but Van Gennep said the team is motivated to bring home a title, especially after a disappointing performance last year. “We’re had a mixture of both,” she said about the team’s finishes. “My freshman year, I think we were just excited to be there. Our second year, we had to change our whole routine, and it worked out for the better. “Last year was horrible. We had felt we could win, it was all in our hands, and we choked on the floor. Honestly, we are so ready for this year. We were disappointed, and last year’s routine still stings, but we’re ready to bring back a title at Nationals. We’re working hard, and we have great leaders.” As one of the senior leaders, Van Gennep said her role is to be there for teammates whenever needed and to run the practices. “We’re there to motivate because we all want what’s best for the team.” Grand Valley State coach Brandy Skantze said Van Gennep is exactly the kind of competitor her program wants. “Rachael is a huge leader on our team,” Skantze said. “A motivator both verbally Rachael Van Gennep, a Mokena native and Lincoln-Way East graduate, goes through her routine with her Grand Valley State cheer teammates. Photo Submitted and by example, and she is always willing to do extra reps and stay in the gym longer. She really pushes her teammates to do better. “She is a great asset to our program, and because of her and a few other girls, we’ve started looking to the Chicago, Illinois, area as far as recruiting goes because we’ve had such amazing athletes from that area.” Van Gennep said the entire experience at Grand Valley State has been beyond enriching. While her days as a competitor are winding down, she knows the people she has around her aren’t going anywhere. “I can honestly say because of this experience I’m going to come away with my best friends,” she said. “We get along so well and we hang out together everywhere. We all share the same passion, but yet we’re all so different. I think that’s why it works.” Van Gennep said she’s on track to graduate next fall with a degree in hospitality and tourism, with a specialty in meeting and events management. As for her future in competitive cheer, she’s not closing the door entirely. “This is it, unless I plan to get into coaching,” she said. “And that all depends on where I am and what I’m doing.” Sports the frankfort station | February 16, 2017 | 51 Competitive Cheer Celtics maintain winning culture with fourth-place state finish Randy Whalen Freelance Reporter While East came away with the state title in the large school division Feb. 4, it was a memorable year for Frankfort resident, senior Madison Watson’s last run with Providence cheer. Providence, which was second in the large school division last season, just missed another trophy, there were no regrets for the Celtics either. Their fourth-place finish was their sixth in the past seven seasons. They won the title in 2013 and were third in 2011 and 2014. “The kids were very pleased with their performance on both days,” said Providence coach Laura Duesing, who has been head coach the past seven seasons. “It’s great that our surrounding area is so strong. We are all there to challenge each other and there’s a good camaraderie,” Duesing said. In the preliminary round the Celtics (87.16) were fifth. So they moved up a spot and barely missed out on third. But there were no regrets in finishing fourth. “Our goal was to get in the Top 10 and on technique and grips,” Duesing said. “On day two we didn’t feel any pressure out there. We just had fun and performed. The kids felt that they had their best two performances of the season [at state] weekend. It was a great way to finish the season.” Frankfort cheer teams finish first and second in state staff report Two cheerleading teams from Frankfort-area middle schools finished first and second in state competition. The Hickory Creek Middle School cheerleading team finished first (87.3) and Summit Hill cheerleading finished second (81.04) in the IESA large team routine cheerleading state competition in Peoria last month. Some of their older cheerleading counterparts at Lincoln-Way East High School were named state champions earlier this month. The win marks Hickory Creek’s second-straight state championship win, with 14 eighth-graders earning their second state title. Earlier this season, the team won the Lincoln-Way East/North Pole Invitational and first place at the Lincoln-Way Central Hickory Creek Middle School cheerleaders (right) and Summit Hill Jr. High cheerleaders won first and second, respectively, in IESA state competition. Photos submitted Invitational. The team is coached by Tania Wilson and Katie Ellinghaus. Summit Hill’s season began in May of last year with tryouts, followed by practice and two camps during the summer. The team is coached by Lisa Strzykalski and Amanda Baske. Hickory Creek cheerleaders include seventh graders Miriam Azeez, Sophia Barnard, Emma Blau, Emily Caruso, Jenna Casey, Alexis Chiuccariello, Frankie Corso, Kate Guderjan and Loralei Quinn, and eighth graders Lucy Benn, Lauren Booth, Jackie Brown, Nicole Caruso, Hannah Collins, Mia Conway, Claire Cunningham, Jane Evans, Tiffani Gergely, Alyssa Goodman, Halle Guderjan, Gabby Judd, Devyn Mangin, Alison Pomerantz, Lexi Reaume, Kendall Reh, Lexy Selvaggio, Kelly Teach and Ellie Warning. Summit Hill cheerleaders include Peyton Anderson, Ava Angone, Katelyn Bale, Kennedy Ballard, Jessica Barkauskas, Geena DiBenedetto, Kelsey Figus, Chloe Friend, Abby Grice, Mel Hansen, Payton Malpeli, Karli Quinn, Addison Rivera, Courtney Rogovic, Sarah Sebek, Sophia Sladek, Julia Slobodnik, Ali Sorenson, Morgan Velky, Solana Wilder, Jenna Wols, Lexi Wols and Katherine Zofkie. Do you think leaking when you laugh, cough or sneeze is normal? You are not alone. 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