You might call Oktaha cheer sponsor Kathryn Yarbrough an outsider.
“I have no cheer experience at all,” Yarbrough readily admits. “Last year I volunteered to help out because I knew a lot of the girls but this year when the sponsor left, I found myself in charge. Fortunately, we were able to hire an assistant, Penny Mackey, who is well versed in cheer. She was involved in varsity cheer at Hilldale and has a daughter who has always cheered and is now a cheerleader at Connors State. So Penny is the nuts and bolts of our cheer squad and I’m kind of the organizer and disciplinarian if needed.”
Not having a cheer background gives Yarbrough a unique perspective into what goes into making a solid cheer squad. “As kind of an outsider, I saw how much hard work is actually involved in cheer. My girls work out, they throw people in the air, they do flips, memorize dances and cheers and I think these are things that aren’t seen or appreciated by the average fan who might just see them on a Friday night.”
This past summer the team attended the NCA cheer camp at OU where they learned dances and worked on their stunts in two jam-packed days. In addition, Saleasa Zinn, Mia Keeter, Ella Watson and one of the captains, Dallie Bryce all got to try out for All American. “Dallie is very passionate about cheer and loves it and I think that makes a difference for our team because she wants everyone to be good and look good when we are out on the court. She’s been cheering since junior high and has been a leader even without the captain title,” said Yarbrough. “Our other captain is Brinlee Grace. She’s our silent leader and leads by example by what she does and how she carries herself and her positive attitude. One of things I like about our squad this year is that we don’t have the drama that you sometimes get with a group of teenage girls.”
Since Oktaha is a non-football school, cheering is pretty well limited to the basketball season but that doesn’t keep them from being involved elsewhere. “We put on a mini-camp for our elementary kids and we also support activities like band or FFA when they have a big event by decorating lockers or making goodie baskets for them,” said Yarbrough.