Karisa Klepper’s passion goes far beyond jump kicks and handsprings

Cole Thomas, Editor

It’s a common desire among high school girls in America to earn their pom poms and join their schools cheerleading team. The pageantry and memories that come along with the role so highly sought after are definitive in one’s 4 years. However, not all cheerleaders make their name under the Friday night lights.

Bishop Blanchet junior Karisa Klepper decided to forgo pep rallies and crowd rousting chants for the world of competitive cheerleading, which drastically differs from traditional cheer. Kleppers squad, Connect Cheer Northwest, consistently makes appearances in world wide competitions and is one of the premier gyms for competitive cheer training on the west coast.

Kleppers humble beginnings in the world of cheerleading began a little closer to home though.

“I got into cheer by doing Brave Pride cheer at BBHS,” said Klepper. “My coach there was a cheerleader on a competitive team and she convinced me to join her gym.”

Join she did, and after beginning the first 3 years of her competitive cheer career at the gym of her youth coach, she made the switch to her current dwelling.

“After 3 years, I was just looking for something more,” said Klepper. “So I switched over to Connect Cheer Northwest, which is the biggest gym in the Northwest.”

Since making the switch, Klepper has not looked back. After countless competitions and thousands of flight miles accumulated, Klepper found herself near the top of competitive high school cheerleading. Though she made not that the pinnacle her team has reached came with rigorous demands.

“We have three 2 and a half hour practices every week on Monday, Wednesday, and Sunday,” said Klepper. “And in August, we have two 5 and a half hour choreography days. Competitive cheer is basically year round, we only get two weeks off in total.”

The trying hours are not the only difference Klepper noted between traditional and competitive cheer.

“[Competitive cheer] is way more intense than regular high school cheerleading, as you are always competing against another team,” said Klepper. “Competitive cheer has more intense tumbling, clean stunting, performance, and it is all in hope of placing at the World Championship at the end of the season.”

The mental and physical toll taken on competitive cheerleaders is tremendous, and the days can seem long and easily blend together. While it may seem monotonous for some, Klepper is making sure not to take any opportunity while on the squad for granted, motivating her each time she steps onto a mat.

“I don’t want to one day look back at my past and just wish I had put a little more effort in or pushed myself a little harder,” said Klepper. “I don’t want to wish for one more year so I can make up for anything.”

While many cheerleaders in high school are there for the fans, Karisa has flipped the script. Her sisters, Kiana and Selea Klepper, both offer an outpour of support and never miss an opportunity to watch their little sister in action.

“My favorite memory watching Karisa cheer would be at World in Orlando, when our mom was also able to attend” said sister Kiana.

While many see the final product Karisa displays during competition, her sister Selea understands why that product is worthy of a first place finish.

“Karisa defining personality trait is her preserverance and unwillingness to give up,” she said. “Cheer is her number one priority, and she dosent let anything or anyone get in the way of that.”

Karisa Klepper has made a name for herself in a sport which demands the most of their athletes. And when the lights are off, the stage is gone, and the trophies have accumulated dust, the lessons learned will remain for her.

“Competitive cheer has taught me endless life lessons,” said Klepper. “It has taught me to keep pushing even when I can’t anymore, how to lead, and to be optimistic.”

The same is true for many sports- long after the competition has ended, the lessons learned remain. And despite the rigorous addenda she must follow, Karisa Klepper’s competitive cheer career will stick with her through lessons learned and memories made.