March 18, 2014

Cheering on the North Dakota hockey team

By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer

Not one, but three Watford City High School graduates are on the University of North Dakota hockey cheer team.
Kendra Patten, Kira Stenehjem and Emily Ramage began figure skating at very young ages with the Watford City Figure Skating Club.
Both Patten and Stenehjem are wrapping up their fourth season on the hockey cheer team, while Ramage looks forward to three more years with the team, as she finishes her freshman year this semester.
“Each year I’ve been on the cheer team has brought more and more joy to my life,” Patten said. “I am sad to see it come to an end. It’s a bit emotional for me.”
Patten was the first of the three girls to attend school in Grand Forks. The year after Patten went off to school, Stenehjem also became a student at UND and both girls tried out for the cheer team in 2010.
“Looking back, I didn’t join the team because I loved cheerleading,” Patten said. “I really just wanted to be on the ice and skate. Cheerleading was a whole new thing for me. In the four years I’ve been on the team, I ended up falling in love with it.”
Coming from Watford City, the girls were not used to such large crowds of people during their performances. Patten said when she stepped onto the ice for her first performance four years ago, she was stunned by the massive crowd of fans in the stands.
“I had never performed in front of more than the Watford City fans, but the UND stands had 12,000 people in them,” Patten said. “I was so focused on getting my moves right that I completely forgot to smile. After the show, one of the fans yelled ‘can you not smile?’”
She was mortified to say the least, but Patten never forgot to smile during another performance after that.
“You learn to allow yourself to be humble and wear a smile,” Patten said. “If you mess up, who cares, just move on.”
Stenehjem said her most memorable experience has been cheering at the big events, like the Frozen 4, for alumni, students, parents and fans. She plans to graduate this semester and eventually would like to return to Watford City and give private figure skating lessons.
“I’m really going to miss cheerleading,” Stenehjem said. “It truly has been an amazing time. You can do this sport all throughout your life. I have adapted to new things and learned to take criticism. Being on the team has really expanded my self-esteem.”
She said she will miss performing in front of a crowd, but she is looking forward to helping behind the scenes.
“I knew I chose the right sport when I was five years old,” Stenehjem said. “I’m proud to say I’m from Watford City. Coming from a small town, we really know how to work together as a team. It’s exciting to watch Emily continue to grow and follow in mine and Kendra’s footsteps.”
In 2013, Ramage graduated high school and became the third skater from Watford City on the UND hockey cheer team.
“I began skating when I was two years old in Watford City,” Ramage said. “I learned to skate before I could walk. I’ve been watching Kira and Kendra skate since I was little. After they went to UND, I followed.”
Ramage plans to try out for the hockey cheer team for the remainder of her college career at UND.
“I want to keep up with my figure skating skills,” Ramage said. “I would love to be on the cheer team for the next three years and continue balancing skating and school. I’m here for school first and skating is a perk. I’m very dedicated to both.”
During her first year in college, Ramage not only cracked down on classes and cheer practice, but she also joined Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, helped organize Relay For Life and juggled a few other school clubs.
Stenehjem also joined a sorority, Alpha Phi, while Patten is now an alumna of Alpha Chi Omega.
All three young women said they strive for excellence in all that they do.
The girls’ cheer advisor, Breanna Linert, said, “I have no idea how we ended up with three young ladies from the same town. Perhaps Watford City produces great figure skaters.”
According to Kimberly Idland, the hockey cheer coach, who is sharing her first year as a coach with the team, “My first year as the hockey cheer coach has exceeded all of my expectations. Each of these young ladies bring such different and positive contributions to the team.”
“Kira is always so upbeat and positive and has such a love for the university,” Idland said. “Kendra has a strong desire to provide the best possible entertainment for all of the fans, whether it’s on or off the ice.”
Idland said she believes the university is lucky to have such quality skaters because “team members like Kira and Kendra have had such a positive presence the last four years with the program that other skaters - like Emily - just have to give it a try.”
“Emily is my most creative skater, on and off the ice, that I have ever had the opportunity to coach,” Idland said. “Because of her passion for skating, positive attitude and bubbly personality she has made the most out of her freshman year at UND. She is such a busy young lady, but always makes time to take part in all of our extra cheer activities.”
The girls would love to see more Watford City figure skaters join the team in the future.
“It’s not always sparkles and fun, but we love this sport too much to quit,” Patten said.