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Step by step

Newfound spirit squad takes a leap forward

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

The Newfound winter spirit squad finished the season by qualifying for the Division III championships and finishing seventh overall. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
March 24, 2014
BRISTOL — The Newfound winter spirit squad enjoyed a successful season, capped off by a trip to the Division III championships.

Coach Katie Linkkila has watched the program grow over the last couple of years and was excited to see the girls earn their way into the Division III championships.

Linkkila took over the program two years ago. The Bears were coming off a season in which they had just three cheerleaders.

The coach was able to build up a team of 12 athletes and they attended two competitions, working on taking the next step as a program.

This year, the team increased to 16 athletes and in the Division III preliminary round, which was held in early March, the Bears moved up six places from the previous season and earned a spot in the Division III championships, a first for the Bears.

The NHIAA changed the format for the spirit championships a few years ago. In the past, all teams would compete in a state championship, but now there is a preliminary round and from the preliminary round, the top teams advance to the championship round.

After finishing eighth in the preliminary round and earning a spot in the championship round, the Bears scored 56 points to move up another spot in the rankings, finishing seventh overall among Division III schools.

"That's a huge victory from the year before," Linkkila said. "These girls have worked so hard and it shows by how much they have improved."

Laconia won the Division III title with a score of 86.5, with Winnisquam a close second at 83.5 points. Trinity finished third with 71.5 points and Campbell was fourth with 69 points. Bow finished with 62.5 points and Stevens was just ahead of the Bears with 60 points. Franklin rounded out the field with 50 points.

Linkilla noted that the team members have put in a lot of work, both with the team and in the offseason, to help improve the entire group.

"They put in about 140 hours of practice, plus competition and cheering at games for both the girls' and boys' basketball teams," Linkkila said. "They also attended stunt and tumbling clinics throughout the season."

She noted that in getting the girls ready for competition, she stresses teamwork and hopes to get it across to them that the team should rise together and fall together.

And the team has bought into the coach's teachings, continuing to improve each time on the floor. And as they continue to improve, Linkkila notes that the support from the school continues to grow as well.

"The support from the school for these girls has grown over the last two years as these girls have improved their skills," the Bear coach said.

She pointed out that many of the girls juggle work, family, grades and other extracurricular activities, in addition to their commitment to the cheering program.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com

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