Special Olympics cheer squad impresses shootout crowd
COLUMBIA - The MFA Oil Break Time shootout featured talented athletes from all around Missouri on Sunday. There were six basketball match ups of teams with the most impressive records, but they weren't the only ones getting the crowd riled up.
The Spirits, a Special Olympics cheer and dance team, received a standing ovation after their performance during halftime of the Southern Boone County versus Boonville boys basketball game.
Just like the other athletes taking to the court, the Spirits practiced their moves before their big performance and talked among each other about their excitement and nervousness.
Kayla Kemme, one of the Spirits, said she loves being on the team.
"My favorite part is doing the moves and doing the dancing and making new friends," she said.
Like Kayla, most of the Spirits said their favorite part of being on the team is getting to be around their friends, but the parents feel the team is more like a family.
"We as parents have become friends, and that's our social network as well because our kids are not left alone for obvious reasons," Trish Wallace said. "We always hang out together and so it's been lifelong friends."
Though the Spirits feel like they are just together to have fun and perform with their friends, the coaches said they have seen a lot of growth in all the team members.
"The most rewarding part for me has been seeing these athletes grow across the last three years," Coach Kelsey Boschert said. "A lot of them will come in and they have no experience performing or anything like that and they'll just be so comfortable in front of an audience after only one performance. It's just so cool seeing them grow in confidence through all of this."
Another coach, Jennifer Pestle, said, "They've all had big smiles on in this performance and I think that they have been practicing and looked really good. I'm just proud that they got into the dance and enjoyed it."
Wallace said the team is gaining traction in the community and is starting to be invited to more events. She said Mizzou Athletics is one their biggest fans.