By Joseph Hayes
It’s championship or bust.
Each and every year, the Richmond High School competitive cheer team is out for a state championship.
When Richmond shows up at Division 3 meets, they are normally the team to beat, and they have become accustomed to handling that pressure just fine.
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Richmond won its third Division 3 state championship under coach Kelli Matthes last year and seems primed to go on yet another run this season.
“It’s been fun to see how much I have changed, along with my whole class,” Richmond senior Olivia Poelker said. “When we started, our skills weren’t that good and we pushed ourselves to be so much better because we all looked up to the older girls.
“It makes us push so much harder after winning last year. We know how it feels now to get that end goal of what we worked for last year. We are just focusing on being better than the day before. That’s something we say a lot. If you had a bad day yesterday, it doesn’t matter, you can improve. And if you had a good day, you can still always be better.”
Richmond is undefeated on the season entering this weekend’s meet at Rochester Adams.
“One of the biggest things about cheer is the mental aspect of the sport,” Richmond senior Madison McEwan said. “A lot of times you find yourself frustrated because you aren’t performing or tumbling as well as you were yesterday. Sometimes you are going to have off days. If you don’t ever fall down, you can’t get up.
“You can’t succeed if you aren’t ever in a bad place. You have to be able to get up from where you were to move forward.
We do a lot of preparation on our rounds but we do a lot of mental preparation. We don’t stress about what goes wrong but we focus on how to fix what goes wrong.”
Leading that mental preparation is Matthes, who knows a thing or two about winning; after leading Richmond to state championships in 2012, 2013 and 2019.
“Knowing that I’ve been able to give them something they can love is what touches me,” Matthes said. “It’s a lot of trials and tribulations and we’ve had some tough seasons and also a great one last year. These kids have been through it all.
“That’s why I do what I do. The trophies are great but it’s the effect I can have on kids, making a difference, is why I do it. It’s all a process. We don’t talk about winning and losing. We talk about being better than you were the day before. We need to practice today better than we did before.
“That’s the process. Teenagers have enough pressure on them. I do not expect my kids to be perfect. That’s unrealistic. Perfect is the effort you give me. If you give me the perfect effort that’s all I ask and whatever happens we will deal with and fix and get better in the days to come.”