New-look Berthoud High School cheer squad shining brightly
By Dan Karpiel
Are cheerleaders athletes? You bet they are.
Facing and overcoming the stigma of simply being a small group of pretty girls in attractive outfits on the sidelines of the Friday night football game is something just about every high school cheer squad in America endures at one time or another.
The Berthoud High School (BHS) cheer squad, under the leadership of first-year head coach Kelly Frye, is working to overcome that negative stereotype.
Just this fall, only a few months into her tenure with the program, Frye has her squad of 14 young women already making waves at the state level and taking the BHS cheer program to never before seen heights.
In October, the team earned a spot, alongside Cherry Creek and Columbine High Schools, two metro Denver schools with two- to three-times the enrollment of BHS, in the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships. For the event, the team will travel to Walt Disney World in Florida in February provided they are able to raise the necessary funding to do so.
Reaching the national championships was a goal Frye set forth from her very first day in taking over the program. As Frye, who cheered in high school and college, receiving a scholarship along the way, taking the program to heretofore unseen levels of success is part of who she is. The daughter of a military man, Frye explained that making a strong commitment is something that has been ingrained in her since a young age.
“I was very up front with the girls and their parents when I took over the program, I shared with them my vision as to where I wanted this program to go and what it was going to take to get us there,” Frye explained. “Our end goal was to win a bid to nationals, and they went out their first competition and they nailed their routine, they did just awesome, so wonderful, so they won their bid to nationals. It really speaks volumes about how far they’ve come.”
Frye explained that she understood, even prior to taking the job, that she would be pursuing something that BHS cheer has never before undertaken and was nervous going in as she was unsure how her shoot for the stars approach would be received.
Said Frye, “Taking over a program that hasn’t had the discipline and the commitment is always hard coming in your first year, trying to build that program, I was kind of nervous coming in and setting that high standard off the bat.” Yet, despite her initial worries, Frye was blown away and how positively she and her plans for the squad were received. “I’ve had some hurdles sometimes, but everybody has been super positive and really supportive and that’s something I love about Berthoud is that community support and community involvement, how they rally around their sports teams.”
Frye trusted her approach, one she has honed for years as both a high school and collegiate cheerleader and as a cheer coach. As she described her approach, “Any time I coach a team, I have the motto ‘firm, fun and fair’ when you do anything you want them to have fun and to enjoy their time but in order to have a successful team you have to be really firm and set those expectations and them meet those standards for the school.”
The coach outlined that she sees her team as being no different than any other varsity team in the school. The cheerleaders practice daily after school from August to March, the longest season of any sport, working to hone their skills not only to support the other BHS teams on gameday but to prepare for their own competitions. “We’re here to do a job and we’re going to look professional doing it,” Frye said.
Frye has honed her squad into a well-oiled machine that has already accomplished many of the goals she set forth but her squad’s captain, senior Juliet Babyak, who has made history on her own. Babyak was named an All-American, a first for a BHS cheerleader, and this New Year will represent her squad, her school, her family and her country in the world-famous London New Years’ day parade. “When I heard the news I was really shocked, Babyak said. “I thought I did well but not well enough to qualify but to be able to represent Berthoud, it’s just so amazing that I have the opportunity to do this.”
“It’s really a big honor and a big accomplishment for me,” Babyak said. “I’m just really grateful to be able to take what I’ve learned and take it to a national level, it’s almost hard to fathom sometimes that I’ve done this.” Babyak is a trailblazer, as a cheerleader, as an athlete, something she said she wears as a badge of honor but that she hopes she will be joined by more young women from Berthoud as All-Americans in the years to come.
Getting the news that she earned the prestigious All-American honors and will be traveling to London was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to her sport, as Babyak explained she began cheering in Kindergarten while living in New York. Like many other athletes, Babyak described how cheer has taught her life skills saying, “it’s taught me a lot of life lessons, how to be disciplined, on time, how to be committed to a team, it’s something that will help me throughout my whole life.”
Babyak outlined how Frye’s coaching has been a godsend for the team, saying that while she “loved” the coaches she has had at BHS her previous three years, the seriousness with which Frye takes the sport was welcome. “It’s been really amazing, Kelly has really focused the team into what I’ve always wanted it to be, Kelly has the background that is just putting us at another level,” Babyak said. “We have a lot more structure, there are a lot more rules, this is a really great foundation because I’m really excited for the future, we’re competing and we’re competing well.”
As Frye explained, “I feel as though the girls have really represented themselves well this year, they’re really gaining that respect back. I think in the past their reputation has been kind of tarnished maybe and not as respected as the other sports, but now that they’re going out and showing everybody what they’re capable of, they are earning that respect, and they’re only going to get better.”
The BHS cheer squad is selling butter braids in the run-up to the holidays to aid in their fundraising efforts. Furthermore, anyone interested in making donations for either Babyak’s trip to London or the team’s trip to Florida, can visit GoFundMe.com and search “Berthoud Cheer.” Further information can be found by contacting Coach Frye via email at [email protected]
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