Bethel College student Bailey Strausz is determined to make the most of her years on campus. She is studying elementary education while working at the campus library and at 12 Brew Drive Thru, singing in choir, writing for student newspaper The Collegian and participating in the cheerleading team.
"I think at a small place like this, it's important to be involved," Strausz said. "That's how you can maximize your experience."
After cheering at Moundridge High School, she decided to continue cheerleading in college.
"I figured it would be good for me to stay involved in that in college, too — to get connected to people I wouldn't normally get connected with," Strausz said.
The sophomore puts in hours of practice, working on tumbling, gymnastics and stunting — skills that require individuals working together as a team to perfect.
"I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I didn't know what kind of a commitment it would be," Strausz said. "There's times when you think, 'I have so much to do, I don't have time for three hours of practice today,' but we make it work."
Despite the long hours of practice and countless bruises, Strausz does it all with a smile on her face.
"You have to go out there and do all these facials, you have to look excited and have as much energy as possible," Strausz said. "It's a lot of hard work, so you have to really enjoy it. It's hard to want to go to practice if you don't love what you're doing."
All that work has paid off, as Bethel College's cheer team placed third at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics regional competition last week, earning them a spot in the national competition in Oklahoma City March 10-11.
"We're pumped up and excited for nationals," said Bethel Cheer coach Joseph Gogus. "We definitely have the potential to be a top five finisher."
"Coach believes in us a lot more than we believe in ourselves, I think," Strausz said. "He's good at keeping us on task, pushing us and making sure we are getting things done."
As the cheerleaders perform their routine, Strausz will take her place as a base, making sure those who are being lifted and thrown into the air are supported and caught safely.
"I've been a base for a while," Strausz said. "It's good for me because it pushes me to have good technique. I'm not the strongest one, so I have to be really good at knowing where to put my hands and how to catch and how to watch for the foot; I can't just muscle it up there like some people can."
Gogus said Strausz's work ethic and coachability has made her an asset to the cheer team.
"Her technique seems to get better and better," Gogus said. "She's really heads-up and very smart. She takes in a lot of advice and is very watchful... when she came here, she was an average high school cheerleader, now she's throwing the most elite skills in cheerleading."
While the cheerleading program at Bethel is only in its third season, the team has worked hard to create a precisely timed and executed routine.
"I think they've all taught each other a lot, not just from a cheerleader perspective, but also from a life perspective," Gogus said.
When asked what she brought to the cheer team, Strausz said she saw herself as a "silent leader."
"I don't like to take charge," Strausz said. "I kind of stay in the background and try to get people moving the right direction and try to stay positive."