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Era ends for Polson cheer coach

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After 28 years shaping and mentoring Polson cheerleaders, Carol Jones is retiring. Really retiring, this time.

She’ll turn over the laptop and the pom-poms to Marete Frame and Alysha Valentine, who will continue to build on Carol’s program. 

Carol started out her cheer career as a cheerleader in high school, and she cheered for the Montana State Bobcats for a year.

“Then I got married and that was the end of that,” Carol said. 

Or so she thought.

Carol and husband Dennis married in 1963 and eventually moved to Polson. Dennis was PHS athletic director and their children were in high school and middle school when Carol began coaching cheerleaders in 1983.

At that time, the position of cheerleader advisor was assigned to a teacher, and the PHS volleyball coach drew the job, although she didn’t want it or have any interest in cheerleading. When Carol talked to the young lady about the cheerleaders chewing gum when they cheered, the volleyball coach suggested Carol take over the job. So she did. 

The cheerleading program Carol designed teaches kids basic skills for life — punctuality, a work ethic, how to function with a team, deal with different personalities, time management, scheduling practice time, study time and extracurricular activities. 

While it may look easy, cheerleading is hard work. Cheerleaders practice two hours every day after school that is not a game. Young men were added to the team in 2006 with six boys the first year. 

“It changed the whole dynamic,” Carol said. “We could do pyramids and stunts. A co-ed squad was just so much better.”

The squad learned stunts in cheerleader camps. For about the first 20 years, they attended a cheer camp in Ellensburg, Wash. Since Dennis could drive a bus, that made the whole trip easier.  

Even boys who’ve played football or basketball are surprised at what hard work cheerleading is, since they get knocked around more in stunting than in football. One young man even suffered a broken nose. The girls who “fly” also get bruises.  

One night a week, the cheer squad practices later so they can utilize the wrestling mats for stunting after wrestling practice is completed.

Students stretch for half an hour, then polish and refine jumps, dance routines, cheers and stunts, focusing on one area each night.

Polson cheer squads are known for being well disciplined and sharp. People comment on the quality of PHS cheerleaders, comparing them to college cheer squads. Over the years, PHS cheerleaders have appeared at University of Montana Grizzly basketball halftimes and at a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics football game.

The only time the PHS cheerleaders entered a competition was in April 2004, Carol said, when the squad won the MSU Bobcat Open.  

Throughout the years, Carol has done a lot of choreography and worked with many young ladies and men. Some outstanding cheerleaders who choreographed dance routines and cheers were Kimberly Jones, ’88; Shannon Boyer, ’89; Amy SanPedro, 91’;

Melissa Targerson, ‘94; Mica Clarkson, ‘04;

Allysha Storro, ‘06; Frame, ‘07; and

Angela Santana, ‘11. 

Targerson, now Chowning, has been working with Carol doing choreography since 1991. 

Carol calls her “a very gifted and talented person who loves cheerleading.”

Chowning had good things to say about Carol, also. 

“We are kind of one and the same. We both believe practice makes perfect,” Chowning said. 

Chowning said she got a lot of great opportunities while she was a cheerleader in Carol’s program. Her organizational skills grew because she was a cheerleader 10 months out of the year and practice, studies and games all needed to have their place.

“Cheerleading either makes you or wrecks you,” Chowning added. 

Carol retired the first time in 1998, and Chowning was head cheer coach for two years. She continued to be involved with dance choreography through the spring of 2009.

Jones went back to being cheer coach when Chowning could not do it full-time.

Frame has been an assistant coach for four years. 

Another cheerleader who loved the sport, Frame said, “Working with Carol has been a lot of things. I’ve learned a ton, not just about cheer coaching but also about life.”

She mentioned things such as teaching cheerleaders the importance of good morals, representing their school and how to treat people.

When Frame was a cheerleader for PHS, Carol was so strict, Frame said. Now the squad says she is stricter than co-coach Valentine.

 “I love kids. I love seeing them excel,” Carol said. “I wouldn’t have traded (my time as a cheer coach.) ...  I leave the program in good hands. I’m very blessed.”

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