Cheerleader competes alone at state champs after squad quits: ‘It felt amazing’
LYMAN, Neb. - Sometimes you have to go at it alone, and that’s exactly what Katrina Kohel did.
The 17-year-old Morrill High School senior gained national recognition for competing— by herself— at the Nebraska state cheerleading championship on Feb. 17.
Days before the event, her three other teammates quit.
"The three freshmen quit for personal reasons," Kohel told FOX Television Stations.
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Kohel said her coach encouraged her to either go to the championship as a a spectator or a competitor. She chose the latter.
"I decided I wanted to go and still compete because I wanted to end my senior year with a bang, and I didn’t want to give up on cheerleading because it has been such a huge part of my life," she continued.
Video captured Kohel cheering solo on the mat at the event in Grand Island, Nebraska. She moved around the mat picking up different pom-poms and performing various cheers and moves.
Kohel said she wasn’t nervous until she stepped into the arena.
"I wasn’t (nervous) at first and then we got into the arena...and it all kind of started to hit me...and it felt like more real in the fact that I was there competing by myself," she continued.
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Not only did Kohel complete her routine, the crowd and her competitors cheered her on.
"It felt amazing," she continued. "It was just so awe-inspiring to me that they were willing to do that even though I was their competition."
Her grandparents attended the event and recorded Kohel’s solo routine. The rest of the family was attending her brother’s state wrestling championship that same day.
Kohel ended up placing 8th out of the 12 competing teams. The judges had to adjust her score because she couldn’t perform certain stunts alone.
Kohel said she’s touched by the acclaim she’s received for going at it with no team.
"It feels amazing to see how positive people are reacting to it and... how it’s showing them no matter what, as long as you put your mind to it, you can still do it," she said.
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"I’m just so proud of Katrina and the performance she put on out there on the mat," Kohel’s coach, April Ott, said to FOX Television Stations. "The amount of love and support from the spectators and teams in that arena was absolutely phenomenal and rewarding."
"What an amazing end to her senior cheer career. She will definitely be missed," Ott added.
Kohel said she holds no ill will towards her former teammates although she said one of them has apologized.
"They made their choice, so there’s nothing I can do about it," she continued.
Kohel plans to enlist in the U.S. Air Force before going to college. She doesn’t know if she will hang up her pom-poms for good.
"Undecided," she said. "Undecided on that one."
This story was reported from Los Angeles.