The cheer team practices a routine while coach Kathy Kohler provides guidance. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

During a cheer routine that features stunting, the “flyer” is lifted high and typically includes a few flips and twists through the air. She’s the center of attention and completing the routine safely with the help of capable teammates in the base positions is the goal.

PHS Cheer Fireworks Stand
WHEN
June 24-July 4, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
WHERE
Beggs Tire & Wheel, 838 Main St., Philomath
(fireworks stand located on the Applegate Street side)
OTHER WAYS TO DONATE
To give to the cheer program, including the mat drive
To donate toward the cost of cheer team’s summer camp

But things don’t always work out as planned and on those occasions, the cheerleaders depend on the mats below to soften the blow of a fall. In other words, the mats are important.

Philomath High School’s cheer squad currently has substandard mats — not only in quality but in quantity.

“We’re trying to raise money for new mats — these ones are falling apart,” PHS cheer coach Kathy Kohler said Monday afternoon during an interview, motioning to a set of worn mats on the gymnasium floor. “They run between $10,000 and $12,000 for a full set … we currently do not have a full set.”

The standard competition cheer floor features nine mats and Philomath has just five.

“These current ones that we have, we bought off another high school and they purchased them in 2010,” Kohler said. “The typical lifespan of a mat is roughly five to six years, so these are a little overdue.”

Sophomore Zoe Ringwald can’t wait for new mats.

“The new mats will help us stay safe from falls and injuries,” Ringwald said. “Being a flyer, that’s really important. … Mats are really important in sport when you have to go upside down and you’re in the air.”

Said senior base Kirsten Padilla, “We have some tumbling and such that can become more dangerous if the mats continue to decline, which they are, and they will split apart when we’re stunting.”

Cheer squad members practice on June 20 in the PHS alternative gym. From left, Zoe Ringwald, Kirsten Padilla, Kaylie Kohler, Ashley Kohler and Ava Simmons. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The program has been raising money to go toward the purchase of new mats. Last year, the team had a calendar fundraiser — each page featuring a different team photo. Sponsorship space was sold to support the project.

“That turned out really well and we already have a lot of interest for next year, so we’re hoping it’ll be a bigger calendar next year,” the coach said.

The team also worked concessions at Oregon State University.

“We just finished up baseball season, which was normally not something that we do, but they asked for help this year and I had enough willing participants to do that,” Kohler said. “Our biggest one, though, is in the fall when we work the football games.”

The cheer program also received a mat drive donation from the Philomath Booster Club. But the rest comes down to the fundraising.

Beginning on Friday, folks in the community can help the cheer team by visiting the group’s fireworks stand. It will remain in place until July 4 with the booth open daily from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. in the Beggs Tire and Wheel parking lot on the Applegate Street side.

Senior Ashley Kohler believes the new mats will have multiple benefits.

“With the ability to hold competitions and stuff, that will be a good fundraiser for us and help us be more known in the community,” she said. “Not having a full floor is really a safety issue because we need all nine (mats) and we only have five.”

Cheer coach Kathy Kohler watches with flyer Zoe Ringwald up top. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The current mats feature solid foam on the bottom, so they need to be flipped over and rolled up, Coach Kohler said. The new mats — EZ Flex is the brand name — can be rolled up by one person.

The cheer program typically has around 12 students on the roster. Heading into summer workouts, Coach Kohler has eight but expects to pick up a few more.

“It is voluntary but I have a pretty consistent group that shows up — these five are really consistent,” she said. “We just finished up a three-day step clinic with our choreographer and she’s coming back in July and we’ll do it again. The first week of August, we’re away at camp and we’ll keep on going.”

The group of five practicing Monday included sophomores Kaylie Kohler and Ava Simmons in addition to Ringwald, Ashley Kohler and Padilla.

“During the summer, you want to be outside, like going swimming, but you’re inside and you’re hot and it’s stuffy but it’s certainly worth it in the end when you compete and you get that taste of victory,” Ringwald said.

Ashley Kohler said workouts began about a week before classes were dismissed for the summer.

“Most of us are returners, so it’s all a lot of review,” she said. “Stunting is going very well — I can see us going to good places this year.”

Padilla sees teammates exhibiting a strong mental approach to the sport.

“I think we have a lot more potential this year than in past years and more and more of a work ethic attitude,” she said.

For those who would like to donate directly to the mat drive, go online to this link. Choose Philomath High School as the “School” and Cheer Mat Fundraiser 2021-22 as the “Item.”

The program is also raising money for its summer camp. To donate specifically to that cause, click on this link.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.