Kolloff flips into the comp season

January 24, 2022

Often ranked one of the hardest sports with high time commitments, cheerleading can be a lot for athletes to handle. However, for junior Emma Kolloff, cheerleading has been a lifestyle. Kolloff is known as a leader and one to go to when in need of help on the varsity cheerleading team at Antioch Community High School.

Kolloff started cheer at a young age, and has been doing it for over ten years. Kolloff is an important component of the team and is currently the main base in her stunt group. It is her second year on the varsity squad, and she feels accomplished to be able to compete at such a high level.

“I started cheer when I was in second grade and have loved it ever since,” Kolloff said. “In some ways, the sport chose me.”

After the varsity cheer team took home the gold in the 2020 IHSA state final competition, the pressure has been on to be a successful team. With the past season filled with cancellations and sickness, this is the season for redemption. Last year’s season consisted of virtual meets and masks. The COVID-19 pandemic was hard to overcome; it took a toll on the girls’ mental health and hindered them from practicing and performing the sport they love. With a new season in swing and reduced mandates, the girls are now able to perform to their full potential and compete. However, they have still faced struggles; an increase in cases led to practices over Zoom and competitions being canceled and moved. With the goal to be a top team again, Kolloff needed to step up and demonstrate her leadership qualities. 

“She always gets us back on task when we’re messing around, and she helps the other younger kids with questions that any of us have to help us figure out what we’re supposed to be doing,” junior Lexi Dalton said.

Kolloff is continuously working towards success. She is currently working on one and a half ups, fulls and switch full ups. One and a half ups are a stunt where the tumbler spins 540 degrees around. Fulls are a full twisting layout, where the fliers spin 360 degrees. In switch full ups, the flier goes up on one leg and then switches to the other in mid-air. These skills can be very challenging and take ample time to perfect. However, with Kolloff’s drive and determination, she will be able to get these skills in no time.

“Being on a team with Emma is truly awesome,” junior Fiona Serifov said. “She has one of the best work ethics and attitudes when we are on the mats together. She is always trying to get better and do her best which inspires us all to do better and work hard.”

In every sport, there are superstitions and funny moments. Kolloff’s teammates consider her to be a lively and positive presence on the team, and with her, there is never a dull moment. 

“Being best friends with Emma and having cheered with her for many years [is] always fun,” Serifov said.

Kolloff is often defined as dedicated, passionate and encouraging. These qualities have created success for Kolloff and have helped her through difficult moments. 

Even though Kolloff may seem calm and relaxed on the outside, the nerves before a competition or full outs are often high. Performing full outs is rigorous and takes a lot out of an athlete. In competition, an athlete gets one chance to prove that they are the best. One wrong move and a whole pyramid can come down.

“Before competing is the most nerve-racking thing ever, but as soon as you’re on the mat, you get an adrenaline rush that keeps you going; afterward, you feel accomplished because you know you just put it all on the floor,” Kolloff said.

For many cheerleaders, a goal is to hit zero and have a perfect routine. Hitting zero is when no stunts fall, no one broke the safety rules and everyone tumbling landed without touching down. This may seem like something easily done, however, this is an extremely challenging feat. The feeling after accomplishing all of those criteria is even better. Hands fly up, girls scream and teammates run to hug one another. 

With the nerves of competing and the commitment of varsity, time management and mental health can be difficult to prioritize. As a high school student, Kolloff has to balance friends, family, school, cheer and self-care. As a teenager, that can be a lot to handle. The key piece is time management and support from friends and family. 

“I have a schedule I try to stick to, so I know what I have each day to stay more organized,” Kolloff said.

After coming off of a first-place win at Grayslake North, Kolloff and the team are even more excited and determined to compete throughout the rest of their season and take home the gold consistently. They will be competing against all the teams surrounding the Antioch area, including the well-known Grayslake Central and their rival, Lakes Community high school. With this being said, Kolloff being the leader she is will be expected to step up and lead her team to a big victory. With no doubt about it, though, her many fans will be cheering her on to a victory.

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