SALINA, KAN. – The most successful sport at Bethel College over the past couple of years hasn’t been anything with a ball in its title, nor has it been track or cross-country.
It’s been the competitive cheer team, which under the direction of Head Coach Joseph Gogus has grown every season during his tenure.
Feb. 11, the first-ever Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Competitive Cheer Championships took place at Kansas Wesleyan University, and Bethel came home with the trophy, with Gogus named 2017 Cheer Coach of the Year.
Some may say this made “back-to-back conference championships,” since Bethel also finished first in 2016. However, last year there were not enough sanctioned cheer teams in the KCAC to have a championship and the event had to be classified as an “invitational.”
“You can say they are without a doubt ‘Back-to-Back Best Team to Compete at Sanctioned Events Held by the KCAC,’” said Bethel Sports Information Director Joshua Booth, “but this doesn’t necessarily have a nice verbal ring to it.”
After receiving his Coach of the Year citation, Gogus said, “I’m humbled to be honored with this award.”
He continued, “Our teams do something a bit different from other sports, in that the coaches consult with their teams on who they should vote for. I think that speaks volumes on the difference in how our sport interacts with each other as a group, and the dynamic of the coach-to-competitor relationships.”
Bethel’s cheer team also brought home some individual awards.
Four team members received “All-Star Honorable Mention” plaques, given for an individual’s skill sets and technical abilities. On a grading scale of 20 points, it takes at least a 13 to be considered Honorable Mention, and 16 to achieve All-American status.
Bethel’s four topped all others in the KCAC who tried out for the All-Star competition. They were Kendra Gonzales, junior from Minneapolis, Kansas, Justin Haflich, senior from Pretty Prairie, Michaela Stevens, freshman from Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Blayne Stump, freshman from Crook, Colorado. Stevens finished just 0.09 points short of achieving All-American status.
Also competing, and finishing in this order, were Sterling College, Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas Wesleyan University and University of Saint Mary, Leavenworth. Ottawa University competed as an “exhibitionist.”
“We had a pretty solid performance with just a few minor flaws,” said Gogus. “I’m excited to see them do so well and be able to grab the first official conference championship in the sport. We’ll have a couple weeks to work out any kinks, and then it’s off to regionals.”
Bethel competes Feb. 25 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Southwest Regionals, hosted by Saint Gregory’s University, Shawnee, Oklahoma, looking to score high enough to again qualify for the NAIA National Championships in March.