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Hailey VonEnde cheers her way to Most Valuable Teammate


Gator senior cheerleader Hailey VonEnde leads her teammates through the school song cheer prior to a Gator Boys Basketball home game on January 27. Late last month, VonEnde earned Most Valuable Teammate, a weekly recognition by the Minnesota State High School League. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Before Gator home football games, basketball games and wrestling matches, the cheer team performs the school song. As people stand and clap they will have seen a familiar face in the Gator cheer team standing in front leading the group.

Two days before the fall cheer season began, this individual was the only one signed up for cheerleading. Long-time Gator Cheer Team Coach Shelly Kern did something she has never done before: open up the program to seventh graders. She had her lone student, now a senior, recruit students for the team.

This senior has proven to be quite the leader for her younger teammates during the fall and winter season, so much so that Coach Kern nominated her for a weekly Minnesota State High School League recognition, the Most Valuable Teammate Award, presented by Wells Fargo. Late last month, in week 18 of the award this school year, this Gator senior learned she had earned this award. Her name is Hailey VonEnde.

“I just felt she deserved it. She didn’t have to come out,” Kern said. “As a senior who wants to be the only senior, but she graciously did. And I was so happy and proud of her that she did.”

Coach Kern talked about VonEnde as both a leader and cheerleader, how she grown in her program, her feelings on hearing VonEnde earned this recognition, and what she’ll miss most about having her in her cheer program.

Cheering since the winter season of her freshman year— covering seven seasons— VonEnde discussed her feelings on earning this recognition, how she views her role on this year’s cheer team and how that has changed, what she enjoys and will miss most about participating in the Gator cheer team program, and what impact the program has had on her.

VonEnde didn’t know she was even nominated for this award until she received a screenshot from her aunt, one detailing how she had won this award. Her aunt asked her about it and VonEnde didn’t know what it was about or who even nominated her for the award, leading to confusion, surprise, and excitement.

“Obviously throughout the day… people had seen it more and other peers have come up to me and (said,) ‘Oh my gosh, congratulations,’” VonEnde said. “Not a lot of people from up north yet have really gotten that, so it’s a big deal… I was super excited and proud to represent BGMR as a student, and an athlete, and as a senior.”

Nominating her for this award, Kern felt she was the last person to find out VonEnde had earned this recognition, waiting and waiting to hear something. She found out when she saw words of congratulations to VonEnde on Facebook.

“I was the last to know; put it that way,” Kern said. “… I was hoping that it was something that I could have surprised her with… at the (winter) awards banquet, but, nah, that didn’t happen.”

As a leader on the cheer team, VonEnde brings graciousness and also demands much from her teammates.

“She shows great leadership. The girls follow her, even to some of the extent that they might be scared of her because I’ve heard them say, ‘Hailey’s going to yell at me,’” Coach Kern said. “She’s not going to yell at you, but she’s a good example. This is how you want to strive to be.”

Standing in that front position on this year’s cheer team, VonEnde does view herself as a team leader, highlighting how all her teammates are new to the team— in their first or second seasons. This year’s winter cheer team includes two seventh graders and three eighth graders.

“They still don’t know the cheers quite well yet. They’re still needing somebody to watch and follow… to guide basically,” VonEnde said, “to make sure they’re on the right path and remembering what they need to do, which I remember having to do for my first season too, so I get it.”

In her first two years, VonEnde was surrounded by juniors and seniors— girls Coach Kern called “super” talented and energetic. Kern watched VonEnde follow the lead of these older girls and do well early. Since, Kern has seen VonEnde grow into the leader she is today.

“She’s grown to be a beautiful young lady that shows good example,” Coach Kern said. “She’s going to do well in her future if she keeps up her good work ethic.”

When she first started on cheer team, everyone on the team was not only closer in age, but also had a more equal role on the team.

“Learning new things, learning everything was quicker. It was easy,” VonEnde said. “… We were able to work on stunts and different routines at faster paces.”

After that larger group of Gator cheerleaders graduated, this left VonEnde and a similar age of girls.

“Now, throughout the years, as the team’s gotten smaller,” VonEnde said, “and then this year, with everybody being brand new to the sport and me being the oldest by quite a bit, it’s been really different.”

Eventually, due to teammates graduating or some deciding to do other things, Hailey was left on her own. Recruiting younger girls to join the team, VonEnde’s responsibilities on the team have changed since her freshman winter season.

“Being a teacher has definitely been the hardest,” VonEnde said, “and most prominent thing that this year’s brought for sure.”

To see the complete story, read the February 9 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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