Her entire squad quit before the state cheerleading competition. She cheered anyway.
"I've put a lot of time into cheer. It's just always been a part of who I am, so I didn't want to end on that note."
Cheerleading is supposed to be a team activity. Most squads have anywhere from 10 to 20 cheerleaders and some have even more than that. But one squad in Nebraska had just four girls, and less than two weeks before the Nebraska State Cheer and Dance Championships, all but one cheerleader had quit.
Most kids would've followed suit so close to a big competition and without teammates, but Katrina Kohel, a senior at Morrill High School, decided she was still going to compete—even if it meant she would have to do it alone. Talk about being brave in the face of disappointment. This girl decided she was going to cheer in the competition and she did, without much care for what others thought.
The competition wasn't just the next town over. It was five hours away, so Kohel and her coach, April Ott, really had to mull it over before committing to making that drive, according to Business Insider. In the end, the teen decided that she didn't want to just sit in the crowd or stay home; she wanted to perform the routine she spent so much time learning. But the routine required the entire squad, so before they could make the trip, they had to figure out how to make it a one-person routine.
"I've put a lot of time into cheer. It's just always been a part of who I am, so I didn't want to end on that note. I wanted to go out on a high one. For that to come true, I didn't want to end it just by going to watch state. I wanted to compete." Kohel told Business Insider. So the lone cheerleader and her coach got to work redoing the routine so it made sense with just one person cheering.
The pair told the Omaha World-Herald that they had to rework the whole performance in a week and a half. It was really a battle of sheer will since Kohel was determined to do her best on the mat without her team. Kohel admitted to the outlet that she was nervous, but no one would have known it.
"She was completely confident the whole week that we practiced," Ott told Business Insider. "It was just 100% confidence, and she just owned it."
This cheerleader was absolutely unstoppable and she had her family's full support. Even Ott's daughter, who was previously a cheerleader at the same high school, tagged along to cheer her on. Kohel's grandparents stood in for her parents because her brother had a state wrestling tournament and her parents are the coaches. But don't worry, they were able to see her cheer through Facebook Live.
Support didn't only come from her family and coach, as other cheerleaders piled into her section and cheered for the brave solo cheerleader. Darin Boysen, executive director of the Nebraska Coaches Association, told the Omaha World-Herald that this was the first time a cheerleader competed alone.
But she didn't just compete—she placed 8th out of 12 squads, which is the highest Morrill High School has placed in the last three years.
"It's almost overwhelming, the amount of support I got from all of them," Kohel explained to Business Insider. "The whole arena was cheering me on. It wasn't just one little section—it was the whole arena."
This article originally appeared on 3.2.23