Makayla Snelson has spent every one of her four years as the head cheer coach at Canon City High School trying to prove that her cheerleaders are athletes.
Frankly, it's been an uphill battle.
But an acrobatic and high-flying showing at the state competition on a frigid Saturday night may have added a point in her favor.
Led by younger sister Raina Snelson, a junior, the recently depleted Tigers cheer unit looked nearly flawless with their five-day-old routine and entertained the crowd under the bright lights at the Denver Coliseum.
Their finish in 4A - which was not accumulated until after this edition of the paper went to press - was not even the important part, said coach Snelson. She was just proud of the gutty performance, which has been bouncing back from adversity since she took over the program.
"When I cheered (at Canon City High School) nobody would show up to our competition," said Snelson, who was a Tigers cheerleader from 2003-07. "We were just seen at football or basketball games. Nobody thought we were athletes or anything."
Today, she's trying to help fix that perception. Since she took the helm of the program, Canon City has participated at the state meet every year and has gone in and out of competitions around the state and country during a season that lasts from June until February.
Her sister, thanks to the added exposure, is getting a whole different experience because of it.
"When I was a freshman it was all hush-hush and nobody wanted to come to our competitions. They'd be like, 'Why would we want to come to something that you perform for only two minutes," Raina Snelson said. "But now, so many people at our school come to see us all the time. I think the exposure at competition shows people that it's not just what we do at football games."
Saturday, Canon City's cheer team brought a routine that they came up with on Monday due to the fact they'd lost one of their girls from the team for unspecified reasons.
Despite the setback, however, the Tigers exploded in celebration after their relatively seamless performance.
They said only they knew all the hard work it took to get them to this point.
"We communicated really well and just pulled it off," cheerleader Shae Sandritter said. "We put in a lot of hard work and dedication to do it."
Now, coach Snelson just hopes others will see that, too.