Bigfork High School senior Dylan Carlson is getting a jump-start on her future by graduating at age 16 and pursuing her dream of joining a college-level cheerleading team.
The young graduate received the news about two weeks ago that she made the Kansas State University cheerleading team.
“I was in math and we were taking notes and I got a text. I almost cried because I was so excited,” Carlson said.
Currently a member of the Bigfork cheerleading squad, Carlson embodies school spirit. At pep rallies and sports games her job is revving up the crowd’s school pride.
“Our role is to be happy; pump up the crowd, cheer on the players and entertain the crowd,” Carlson said. “Without school spirit I feel the whole school is depressed. Your sports teams probably won’t do as well, there wouldn’t be fans at games. It’s just important for morale overall.”
Off the sidelines Carlson exudes a more subdued personality.
“I was so shy my freshman year,” Carlson said. “I did speech and debate and I had to be funny and open, so that really helped me.”
But when she puts on the blue, white and red uniform Carlson radiates school spirit.
“When I have the pompoms and uniform, I just become so excited and happy and bubbly,” Carlson said.
While cheerleading traditionally has been classified as an extracurricular activity, Carlson believes it reaches sport status.
“I hate it when people don’t call it a sport,” she said, noting that they have to practice and train to perform.
Although Bigfork is not a competition team, it broke the mold this year and traveled to Missoula to compete against a Helena team. Bigfork placed second.
“They had more group stunts like all-star teams that only compete,” Carlson said. “It was exciting. You have three minutes to show your whole routine — this is all we have and your heart’s pounding. I hit all of my stunts, and I felt I put really good facials for the judges.”
Carlson is undertaking the challenge of moving up from an approximately eight-person high school squad to a 45-person team at Kansas State.
“They have a really good team,” she said.
For tryouts, Carlson sent in a video performance of various stunts, dances and cheers. She’s excited to learn tumbling, hone her stunting and perfect her dancing.
“I love stunting; that’s my favorite part,” Carlson said.
Her favorite moves are the ones where she is lifted high in the air with a person below her supporting one or two feet, or propelling her into the air in a basket toss.
“You’re so high in the air and everyone is looking at you,” she said, smiling.
Carlson will perform in front of a sizably larger audience at college. The largest audience she has performed for was the state boys basketball tournament this year, and she said it doesn’t compare to the college-level crowd.
“To cheer in front of 50,000 or more just sounds really exciting to me,” she said.
To graduate from high school in three years, Carlson worked very hard. She doubled up on courses, taking two back-to-back English classes and two back-to-back history classes. She also took an elective course working on the high school yearbook.
This year she also competed in golf, was in a school book club and worked at Swan Bar and Grill as a cook.
“I just didn’t want to be shocked how hard college is,” Carlson said.
Carlson plans to attend Kansas State University in the fall, studying kinesiology and human nutrition, with the goal of becoming an athletic trainer for a college football team and working her way up to the NFL. It’s a perfect blend of medicine and sports — two of her biggest interests.
“I’m taking sports medicine. Right now we have to learn about the body. I love learning about the body. There are so many things we don’t know,” she said.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at email@example.com.