Geography brought the cheerleading squads from Riverside-Brookfield and Lincoln-Way West together, but a common experience and incredible sportsmanship created a bond between the two teams at the IHSA Cheerleading Sectional hosted by Riverside-Brookfield on February 2.
Lincoln-Way West was the first team to perform in the Medium Class (RB’s class as well) at the Sectional, when the team suffered a devastating injury to its flier, who fell and broke her fibula. Per IHSA rules, the team was given 30 minutes to regroup and practice with its replacement before preforming again. In stepped Lincoln-Way West freshman Sydney Whalen, who was literally stepping out of a walking boot from an injury she had suffered a month before.
Riverside-Brookfield’s squad could relate, as its captains (from L-R) Martina Smith, Clare O'Connor, Hayden Claire and Tori Wolfer explained in the video interview below:
Seeing Lincoln-Way West shaken by the injury situation, Riverside-Brookfield sacrificed some of its own practice time and then cheered on their opponent:
Emotionally invested in Lincoln-Way West’s performance, Riverside-Brookfield celebrated when LWW qualified for state and missed hearing its own name get called:
Lincoln-Way West returned the favor at Sectionals and then again at the State Finals:
Perhaps no one surmises the emotions better than Lincoln-Way West’s Sydney Whalen, as the freshman flier fill-in sent this letter to Riverside-Brookfield coach Chris Borzym in the days after the Sectional:
To my Riverside Brookfield friends,
Hi my name is Sydney Whalen (pictured right), I'm a freshman at Lincoln Way West and I'm on the varsity cheerleading team there. Due to a previous injury, I haven't been able to compete or cheer for the past month. On Sunday that all changed though. We performed first at Sectionals and I don't know if you heard but it didn't end well. In the middle of the routine our best flier and tumbler fell and broke her fibula. The girls ran off the mat crying because we thought that was the end of our season. IHSA rules say that a team is allowed to have half an hour to pull it together and perform again. Unfortunately, I was the only alternate flier and I had just got out of my walking boot a week prior. I figured we didn't have much to lose so I begged my coach (and my mom and my doctor) to let me try. They put us through warm-ups again and that's where I met your wonderful team. I was never able to truly thank you all for what you did that day. Not only did you cheer for us, but you gave us hope, courage, strength. You helped me personally to push through the pain and get it done. You also taught me what a true cheerleader is; a true cheerleader cheers for everyone, not just their own team but the people that really need it. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that. Despite all odds, our team made it to state and for that I give you ladies the credit. I wouldn't have been able to do it without you and more importantly WE wouldn't have been able to do it without you! Hope to see you all again soon and best of luck to you at state! We'll be rooting for you : )
Riverside-Brookfield principal Pam Bylsma, an active proponent of the Character Counts education program, has helped integrate that program into all of the Riverside-Brookfield’s athletic teams, while also using sportsmanship and service as evaluators for the school’s coaches. After watching the Bulldogs perform in the prelims of the IHSA State Finals, she reflected on the Sectional experience.
“Our girls have a great mentor in Chris (Borzym) and we put such an emphasis on sportsmanship and integrity for our students in all sports. It was really special to see the girls live their values.”
Borzym was nearly at a loss for words when talking about his squad. “They are just such wonderful girls. They have been a joy to coach on and off the mat. They work so hard and make the right decisions, as you can see.”
Ironically, the team didn’t think they had done anything special: