Cheerleading tryouts, usually held the previous spring, weren't held until after Labor Day. Of the 13 girls who made the team, the majority had never been cheerleaders before. None were juniors or seniors. Most were eighth and ninth graders, with one seventh grader.
Then Slone found out the homecoming game was moved up a month.
To get ready for the big game this Friday, Slone has been working twice a week with the team members, who make their high school debut at a pep rally at 2:30 p.m. Friday at Eureka Springs High School. The girls hope everyone will be impressed with their routine, which includes high-flying stunts.
"These girls have worked really hard and come a long way in a short time," Slone said.
For one stunt, three girls lift a fourth, called a flyer, from a standing position, feet flat on the floor, lifting her straight over their heads with their arms extended, then catch her as she drops to the floor. The cheer team stunned elementary students when they performed this stunt before a pee-wee football game, Slone said. The stunt is the opening move in a dance set to hip-hop music, something new Slone has introduced.
"I've brought in new cheers, taught new stunts and new progressions of stunts," Slone said. "It's a little harder than what they've been doing in the past."
Slone, who is from Elmhearst, Ill., previously coached at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Ill., where she took the team to the national championships in 2005. Slone said she will take her new team to competitions in a year or two, when the younger ones are eligible to compete at the high school level and everyone is ready.
"These girls have the ability and drive to do it," Slone said. "We're going to get there. I have to make sure safety-wise that we are going forward at the speed they can handle."
Other stunts they are mastering is the ball, in which the flyer, supported by the soles of her shoes over the heads of other girls, bounces down into their hands and back up to standing position. The two girls on either side are called bases. The third is the back spot. The majority of her team are very athletic, Slone said.
"Four of them are on the junior-high basketball team, and three are on the high-school volleyball team," Slone said.
The youngest, Bailey Grat, is in seventh grade and is a competitive dancer. Grat, Liza Reynolds, Corinna Green and Nicole Morrison are flyers. Hallie White, Jenna Descoteaux, Izzy Young, Morgan Pope, Aurora Fields, Ariel Pope, Rose Schuler and Hailey Halbrook-Dykes are bases and spotters.
The cheer team will also be leading cheers at the bonfire on Thursday, Oct. 18, at the high school, a community-wide event at which the opponent's logo, the fleur-de-lis of the Huntsville St. Paul's Saints, will be burned. Starting at 6 p.m., hot dogs, chips and pop will be available in the cafeteria for $3, a fundraiser for the cheer team. The money will buy warm-ups for the girls and replacement uniforms, Slone said.
"We want to march in the Christmas parade, and hope to have everything by that time," Slone said.
The cheer team is also holding an after-school cheerleading camp for first through sixth grade students on Dec. 10, 12 and 13. Cost is $30. Participants will perform with the team at a game on Dec. 14. For more information, contact Tiffany Slone at firstname.lastname@example.org.