Small town, big dreams
Something struck me as I watched the Blossoms blaze their way to a state football championship at U.S. Bank Stadium a few weeks ago.
I couldn’t help but notice the cheerleaders on the field providing support not only for the players, but also for the thousands of Blooming Prairie fans.
What’s interesting is that BP was without cheerleaders for football for several years until three years ago when Ashley Rye stepped onto the local scene. Rye moved from Austin to Blooming Prairie and decided to resurrect the football cheerleading squad. She was a football cheerleader in Austin for four years.
I’m not sure if Rye knew something big was coming or what, but good thing she made things happen when she did so that BP would have cheerleaders for the 2019 championship team.
Previously a coach for dance, Rye found something missing from the BP gridiron sidelines: cheerleaders. “I never imagined a football team without a cheerleading team,” she said from the sidelines of U.S. Bank Stadium as the Blossoms were beating up on BOLD rather handily.
In the first year, Rye recruited eight girls for cheerleading. Since then she has average about 14 girls, including this year’s squad of six seniors.
Rye credits Blooming Prairie with having so much community support for its athletes, especially this year’s championship run. “Our jobs are to bridge the gap between the fans and the football team,” she said. She added that the cheerleaders have found the fans to be “so responsive” to their cheers, which creates a special kind of cohesiveness.
Cheerleading, Rye says, is not about the cheerleaders. “It’s about creating the atmosphere for the players,” she said. She has found the players support the cheerleaders just as much as they support them. “We’ve really created that bond between us,” she added.
Blossom pride is contagious, according to Rye. “There is so much pride in it,” she said. “We take pride in being a little different,” she said referring to the Awesome Blossoms mascot.
Going into the state tournament, especially the state championship game, provided just a little bit of extra anxiety for the cheerleaders. Rye and her assistants coached the girls on being there for the boys. “There is no room for silence in this game,” she said pointing to the championship game.
The excitement of the championship game has proven to be a big moment for senior captain Baylee Sorensen. Crazy, busy and exciting are just a few words Sorensen used to describe cheering in the biggest game of the year for BP. “It’s really exciting to be here,” she said. “I’m glad I got to go out with a big bang.”
Some of Sorensen’s favorite cheers were the “reloads,” which cheerleaders are tossed in the air and caught by others. “You get an adrenaline rush,” she said excitedly.
If you noticed the Blossoms cheerleaders being a little more noisy than usual, you weren’t imagining things. Something new that Sorensen and the other cheerleaders learned this year is how to utilize their diaphragm. “We’re using our diaphragm and it increases the volume. It’s loader,” she explained.
This was Rye’s first experience with a state championship game. “It’s really a humbling experience,” she said. “It’s super exciting to be where the big shots play.”
Rye credits cheerleading with increasing her overall self esteem. “I was very shy in high school,” she confessed. “It gave me the self esteem and confidence that I needed.”
What sticks out most for Rye is the caliber of team Blooming Prairie had this year. “I can't think of someone who deserves this more,” she said. “They are such good people purely kind and deserve it.”
Like most everyone, the cheerleaders have swelled with incredible pride over the past few weeks. “There is a thrill that really can’t be described,” Rye said. “Our motto is small town, big dreams. We’re living vicariously with them.”
A small town in hot pursuit of big dreams. In this case, it wasn’t a dream, but rather reality for a town hungry for its first ever state football title.