Katrina Kohel had dreamed of being a cheerleader since she was a little girl, when her parents took her to high school football games. Her childhood dream became a reality, and she has been cheering on the Morrill High School team for four years.
But just before the 2023 Nebraska State Cheer & Dance Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska, her squad faced an unexpected challenge: three of their freshmen members quit for personal reasons, leaving just one person on the team — Kohel.
Her coach, April Ott, suggested they attend the three-day state competition as spectators to watch the more than 2,700 girls and 225 teams perform, but Kohel had something else in mind.
“I want to go to state, and I will cheer by myself,” the undeterred high school senior told Ott, the Omaha World-Herald reports.
Rather than give up or sit it out, Kohel and Ott decided to rework the routine choreographed for four people into something one person could do. They practiced every day leading up to the competition. She had less than two weeks to perfect it.
On the night before the competition — after a basketball game Kohel played in — Ott drove her five hours to Grand Island, with her daughter along for moral support. Kohel admits that watching other teams perform made her nervous, but getting backstage cleared her mind and gave her confidence. She was able to draw upon muscle memory to complete the routine.
Morrill Lion Cheer shared a proud post on Facebook.
Kohel had anticipated a small crowd of admirers in her section while she performed — her grandparents were the only family members able to attend the event, but her parents were able to view a friend’s stream over Facebook Live. Little did she know that the entire arena would soon become part of Team Kohel.
Competitors and fans from other teams filled her section, and the whole area erupted with enthusiasm as they cheered her on. She couldn’t believe all the love and support from everyone around her.
“I probably had the loudest crowd involvement there,” Kohel told the World-Herald. “Everybody was cheering with me, and it was an amazing feeling.”
As the sole performer from Morrill High School, she achieved an incredible feat by placing eighth out of 12 contestants — the highest placement that the squad has ever attained.
You can watch her routine on YouTube.
Congrats to Kohel on her performance!
This story originally appeared on Simplemost. Check out Simplemost for additional stories.