Cheer makes history qualifying for State finals

Team finishes 20th in the co-ed division to cap a record setting season.


NT Cheer Instagram

Team poses after qualifying for State.

This year was the first year in IHSA history New Trier’s Cheerleading team qualified for State finals. 

On March 11, the team submitted their pre-recorded routine and ended in 20th place.

Head Coach Kelsey O’Kane viewed this accomplishment as a step towards future State appearances.

“Unlike other years, it was all virtual. So it wasn’t quite the same. But we turned the Northfield  stage gym into a virtual watch party so we could stream the other teams and awards. We made the best of it,” said O’Kane. 

Senior Dai-Lin Hummel was grateful that the team was able to compete with COVID-19 precautions. Hummel said the team enjoyed the experience of turning their routine into a State level performance. 

“I was so proud of the team for getting that far. Although we didn’t get any awards, making it to State was a reward in itself. We made history, and we did it together. Accomplishing something so important to everyone was the greatest feeling,” said Hummel. 

Throughout the season, the first time IHSA State qualifiers showed the team that the hard work had paid off. 

“This team worked tirelessly both in practice and in outside gyms throughout the week. They knew success wasn’t just going to show up one day and they needed to put in total effort to reap the benefits. I think looking back, they’d tell you it was 100% worth it,” said O’Kane. 

Sophomore captain Jake Robelo said the practices leading up to State were focused on perfecting their routine and skills.

“We took all the feedback and constructive criticism from all the judges from our previous competitions and really focused on those comments. Showmanship and being expressive was one of the things we worked on,” said Robelo. 

Senior Hannah Ross and captain Susannah Shaker believed that the close bond between the team helped build motivation and trust to perform well.  

“The pandemic has affected all of us differently, and it was so nice to have a group of people I️ could go to if I️ ever needed anything. Cheerleading is a sport that requires a ‘team first’ mindset, and by cheering each other on it, shows that we support one another through everything,” said Shaker. 

Due to social distancing requirements, the team was not able to lift or toss one another, and since competitions were held remotely, taking video retakes of routines lifted the pressure from having to perform live.

“Normally we’d practice stunting. That’s most people’s favorite part of cheer and what really distinguishes cheerleading from gymnastics and dance. Due to having to social distance though, we didn’t get that opportunity. Nonetheless, we still put in a ton of time and effort to work on skills to help improve our routine score,” said Hummel.

After finishing their State routine, the team reflected on their hours of dedication and celebrated their achievement. 

“After our State performance and submitting the video to the judges, we all felt a weight of relief lift off. We pushed through all the pain and frustration of making everything perfect, which was a great accomplishment. We all celebrated our success and lots of happy tears cried from the feeling of joy we all brought to each other,” said Ross. 

Coach O’Kane said the team talked about qualifying for State regularly. The team knew what they wanted to achieve and had to be honest with themselves about what it would take to get there. 

“You cannot control your opponent, so we focus on putting our absolute best out there. We added a few more skills but for the most part we stick to what we know,” said O’Kane. 

While  the cheer team’s competition season is over, they continue to practice and perform for the New Trier Football season. The team is excited to see how much more they can achieve in the future. 

“We are honored to be up against some of the best in the state. But this program really presents an opportunity for so much more. The lessons you gain here will stay with you forever. You learn to sacrifice, to commit to more than just personal goals, and to show gratitude in everything you do.” said O’Kane.