The latest champions at Lake Zurich High School (LZHS), the first place varsity cheerleading squad, received a warm welcome home from the state championships on Sunday at an assembly at the school.
The varsity cheerleaders placed first in the Large Squad division in the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Competitive Cheerleading Competition held in Bloomington-Normal over the weekend.
The cheerleading team walked into the field house, hand-in-hand, welcomed by a standing ovation, from more than 100 parents, family, friends, and supporters sporting blue and black and waving handmade signs.
“They deserved it because they worked so hard this year,” said Gail Drake, supporter.
Their climb to the top included winning First Place at the Huntley Invitational, Fourth Place at the Super CDA Invitational, Second Place at the North Suburban Invitational, First Place at the Grayslake North Invitational, First Place at the Jacobs Invitational, First Place at sectionals at Grayslake North, and finally winning it all downstate in Bloomington and becoming IHSA State Champions in the large division title on Saturday, Feb. 5.
It’s a dream come true,” said Nettie Shaffer, LZHS parent. “Some of these girls have been cheering together since first grade and to end their time together by winning state is just incredible.”
The road to state was not easy according to team coach Pam Bonnevier. The team went through “struggles” and “injuries” but, their “effort and time” paid off and “we peaked in February at the right time.”
It wasn’t until LZHS beat out reigning state champs Conant High School, at the Jacobs Invitational, that Bonnevier thought, “OK, we can run with them, we have a shot.”
LZHS took the first place large division state title away from Conant High School, earning a total score of 93.96 with no deductions, and Conant High School came in second with 93.74 with no deductions.
“We worked harder than we ever have before,” explained Jenna Therrien, LZHS varsity cheerleader. “We wanted it (state championship).”
Lake Zurich Mayor Suzanne Branding invited the team to be honored at the Feb. 22 village board meeting. She revealed that she was an ex-LZHS cheerleader herself while she spoke at the assembly and asked the team, “Do you know what happens to cheerleaders when they hang up their pom pons?” She asked. “They have careers, have families, and become mayor.”
Among the supporters were Kathy Brown, District 95’s board of education president, Lake Zurich village trustees Tom Poynton and Dana Rzeznik, Lake Zurich village clerk, Kathleen Johnson, and Lake County Representative, Craig Taylor.
Michael J. Egan, District 95 superintendent noted as he spoke, that the parents are the ones to thank too.
“Thank you for adjusting your schedules, making dinners, and driving them (cheerleaders) around.” Egan continued, “This is something we will remember forever and hold deep in our hearts.”
After the assembly the celebration continued on while the team posed for pictures with the trophy and supporters congratulated them.
“I’m really happy for them,” said Gus Coon, LZHS football player. “I saw how hard and how much they practiced and they definitely earned it.”
Although the 26-person cheerleading team will loose ten seniors next year, Bonnevier plans on “staying at the top of the pack.”
An all school parade was held at LZHS today to honor the team.
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” said Kristen Opsahl, LZHS varsity cheerleader. “It’s amazing to think that we are the best team in the state…it’s incredible.”