The Westosha Central cheerleading squad won its fourth consecutive state Wisconsin Association of Cheer and Poms Coaches title last weekend in La Crosse. Top row left: Brenna Maloney, Layni Kennell, Layne Schroeder, Hannah Hogan, Grace Ziehm, Abby Birkholz, Lauren Shane, Adelia Mahaffee, Triana Rudd, Tori Platz, Coach Natalia Vernezze; Front: Claire Fox, Jaden McKenna, Rylee Johnson, Krissy Swatkowski, Rebecca Glassen, Lauren LaPlant.

Vernezze earns Coach of the Year

By Jason Arndt

The Westosha Central High School cheerleading team came back from the Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Poms contest with its fourth straight title, but that wasn’t the only achievement the team earned at the competition held last weekend in La Crosse.

Natalie Vernezze, who steered the team to three consecutive state titles, earned WACPC Coach of the Year.

Vernezze felt privileged to receive the honor.

“Winning Coach of the Year was a fantastic feeling,” she said. “It was a nice gesture for the parents to nominate me, but then to have WACPC select me based on the letters really made me feel special.”

Meanwhile, senior Jaden McKenna, part of the first three state champion teams, notched all-state honors for the fourth consecutive year.

According to Vernezze, McKenna has shown the willingness to improve, and often dedicates extra time at practice to refine her skills.

“She constantly is looking to improve her skills and strives to clean up or advance skills at every practice,” she said.

Along with Coach of the Year, and an all-state representative, the flying Falcons had a stunt group place first with a score of 39.3 of 40.

The stunt group – Krissy Swatkowski, Rebecca Glassen, Hannah Hogan and Layne Schroeder – entered the state competition ranked 17th on the national level.

“They were ranked 17th at Nationals and continued to work hard and do well at State,” Vernezze said. “At state, they hit a phenomenal routine that earned perfect 10s in difficulty.”

Before the state competition, the cheerleading team won the Southern Lakes Conference championship for the fourth straight year.

A dynasty
Vernezze, who also won as a student attending Westosha Central, winning the fourth straight title took time and commitment from the entire team.

The commitment starts in May, when open gyms are held, followed by tryouts in June to prepare for cheer camp.

After cheer camp, the team heads into the football season, where they practice four times a week for 2 1/2 hours.

“Each day we practice, we are constantly upping skills and holding each other accountable for growth,” she said. “I take the time to create goals, both individually, and as a team.”

The football season, she said, propels the team in the winter, when the flying Falcons add another day of practice and review film of their routine.

“Skills are often added to get us elite scores, but this can only happen with time, energy and commitment,” she said.

Senior six
Along with McKenna, Glassen, Swatkowski, Rylee Johnson, Claire Fox and Lauren LaPlant have been involved with the team since the start of the four-year run of state titles.

With competition season over, Vernezze will remember them as leaders, including establishing expectations for underclassmen.

“It has been a phenomenal experience watching the growth of these six,” said Vernezze, noting three of the six had older sisters on the team, which allowed them an easier transition from grade school.

“These six were then able to grow exponentially leading to four consecutive state titles,” she said.

Editor’s note: In the March 9 print edition of the Report, Claire Fox was mistakenly omitted from  a list of seniors due to an editing error. The Report apologizes for the error.


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