Evergreen Poms continuing legacy

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By Dan Johnson

Great rewards carry great expectations.

You certainly don’t have to tell that to members of the Evergreen High School Poms squad.

One look at the banners in the school’s gymnasium, though, only tells part of the team’s story.

While the Poms has won six state titles since 1996 (1998, 2001-03, 2005 were the other years), perhaps an even more impressive feat is the 15 consecutive trips Evergreen has made to Nationals.

They’re headed there again, leaving on Jan. 31 for Orlando, Fla., where they will compete against the top squads from other states at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex.

“There’s definitely a legacy,” said Olivia Folkesson, one of four senior captains on the team. “We’re expected to do well.”

“Head Over Heels”

To meet those lofty expectations, the Poms put in their time at practice.

And how.

The girls are in the gym up to six days week, and working anywhere from 20 to 25 hours on their routine. The high volume certainly takes a toll on the girls’ bodies, as most carry around bumps and bruises; worn more as badges of honor than ones of torture.

“We have a lot of fun,” said senior Blayke Olson. “It’d probably be harder to do if we didn’t enjoy it. There are times when you don’t want to practice, but we know that the more time we put in at practice, the better our routines will be in competition.”

If you think that schedule is tough, wait until summer approaches. There, things get really intense.

Once school is out, the Poms practice twice a day, every day. What’s the reason for all that extra work? The team has to prepare for a week-long camp in July, which is where teams qualify for Nationals each season. Typically the top three teams from each state move on to Nationals.


Finally in August, the team is awarded a brief respite.

“We do get to be a regular teen and enjoy break for a little bit,” joked senior Mahala Proch.

The break is short, though, as once another school year begins, the Poms get back to work. In between practice sessions for state (held in December) and Nationals, the team often performs at home soccer, football and basketball contests.

But, as always, the team’s main focus is on its two biggest meets. The Poms took second at this year’s state tournament, and are just days away from stepping on stage at Nationals.

“We Got the Beat”

Putting their routine together is choreographer Sarah Schachterle. For this year’s Nationals, Schachterle has the Poms performing a routine to various songs by 80’s all-girl group The Go-Go’s.

While Schachterle comes up with the routine, coach Debbie Cooper is there to make sure the girls are hitting all their steps in stride, and sticking all of their jumps, twirls, leg holds and any other movement.

“I want to make sure everyone is in synch,” said Cooper, who added that Michelle Prouty serves as the team’s strength and conditioning coach. “We have girls with different levels of dance backgrounds, so you want to try and get everyone on the same page.”

Cooper said that she’s noticed the girls on the squad in recent years have taken a liking to the more hip-hop oriented numbers, and that suits her just fine.

“I was always a big fan of poms routines because they stressed technique,” Cooper said. “But the girls just have a blast when they get to do hip-hop; their faces light up and as a coach, you can’t ask for anything more than that.”

While the girls may be having fun now, that wasn’t always the case. Perhaps the most nerve-racking time for a Pom isn’t the practices or competitions; it’s the tryouts.

“Man, those were so intense,” Smiley said. “We had to do a solo dance, and then had to do one of (the teams’) dances. After that we had to do a line of kicks, do splits and other techniques. It was tough because the other girls were all watching you and you knew you had to be on your game.”

Now, Smiley, Proch, Olson and Folkesson will be the ones doing the watching, as all senior Poms are involved in the judging process at tryouts.

“We typically carry anywhere from 15 to 18 girls a year,” Cooper said. “This year we have 15 girls on the team.”

With its long track record of success, Cooper says the future of the program is bright.

“The girls coming up see the girls in front of them doing great things,” Cooper said. “I think that’s definitely a motivating factor and pushes them to work hard right from the start. Yes, it takes a lot of work, but with that work come great rewards.”

And with those rewards come great expectations.