Kenya Garza of West Ottawa is the Sentinel’s Cheerleader of the Year

Kenya Garza of West Ottawa is the Sentinel's Cheerleader of the Year

HOLLAND – As West Ottawa’s cheerleaders take to the mat to perform, everyone in attendance sees a sea of ​​beaming faces and smiling faces in costume. in black and white.

Everyone looks strong and likes to compete. But even to the trained eye, one actor stands out. Senior Kenya Garza will be the Sentinel’s Cheerleader of the Year. The whole team likes to be happy, but everyone has bad days, so it’s hard to talk ear to ear day after day.

Despite Garza, it’s easy. The joy was her escape from the stress that school and the outside world put on her. The rug is his happy place.

“Sometimes it’s hard to justify a smile, it’s how you feel at the time,” Garza said. “It’s that adrenaline that goes through your body that makes me so happy.”

The Panthers brought out letters at their practice earlier in the year, to see how the varsity level competition would be judged. Emily VeldKamp, the head coach of the team, thought it was a good way to do a reality check for the younger fans as well as a reminder of the power of judgment for the older girls.

When those judges came in, they had words of praise and criticism for West Ottawa. But they just couldn’t get their eyes on Garza, no matter where he was on the floor.

“When he gets on a mat, he’s the first person you look at,” VeldKamp said. “[That judge] pointed straight at Kenya and said ‘I can’t stop looking at you because I don’t know if you’re going to beat me or be my friend,’ he just kept making faces and lust he is. there is.”

Garza has been on the varsity team since late in his freshman season. This year marked his sixth year of interest in the competition, which began back in elementary school. That kind of experience was needed throughout the pandemic as entertainers around the world learned how to entertain in a new way.

It wasn’t easy, but he did the job. The 2020/21 season was tough, and the 2021/22 season was tougher than they expected. But Garza’s consistent quality and infectious demeanor helped push the Panthers over the finish line when it looked like COVID would take the season away from them.

“We had a feeling like this season was going to be better, but it wasn’t,” VeldKamp said. “It was more difficult than we expected, but with Kenya and her quality, it definitely helped.”

The senior is not just an outstanding athlete, she is an all-around smart young lady. He works as hard in the classroom as he does on the mat, maintaining a GPA above 4.0.

He would have had many opportunities to continue his competitive career. Instead, he decided to go to Ann Arbor to get a degree at the University of Michigan, which is being helped by the many scholarships he received based on his academic ability.

He said he hopes to go into accounting or human resources at a company when he graduates because he likes interacting with people. With college on the horizon for him, he knows he has to find a new way to lighten the burden he carries in the classroom. But no matter what he uses to fill that void, he will always be remembered as him and the rest of the Panthers on the floor competing together.

“It’s just an escape for me, fun is always a place where I can put aside the academic side and put myself in that moment,” Garza said. “I give it my all and compete next to my team and everything.”

—Contact Assistant Sports Director Will Kennedy at Will.Kennedy@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByWillKennedy and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.

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