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Bulletin photo by Jessi Dodge The Buffalo High School cheer team practices in the cafeteria of the high school on Thursday afternoon, Nov. 11, 2021, as they prepare for their state competition on Nov. 13 in Laramie. The team includes two exchange students Paula and Laura, both from Spain, who joined the team.

When Paula Sanchez and Laura Cots left their respective cities in Spain to spend a year in the United States, they knew they wanted to be involved in a sport that is uniquely American: cheerleading. 

The two 16-year-old exchange students at Buffalo High School joined the cheer team this fall not knowing what to expect. Their high schools in Spain, they said, do not have cheerleading teams, nor do they have American football.

What Sanchez and Cots knew before landing in the United States, they said, was gleaned from American movies. 

“Every American movie has cheerleading,” Sanchez said. “That’s why I have always wanted to be part of a cheer team.”

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Despite not having much experience with the sport, both Cots — a flyer during stunts — and Sanchez — a base — have brought a lot to the squad this year, coach Tracie Kirven said.

“They’re both very athletic; they’re both a lot of fun,” she said. “They have great dynamic, energetic and positive attitudes and personalities. In terms of helping us build and grow, they’ve been a great asset to our team this year.”

The girls spent the fall on the sidelines at Mike Moon Stadium cheering for a sport they had never seen played before — football. Both Sanchez and Cots said they still don’t understand much about the sport, but that they’ve learned a lot. 

Now, the team will cheer for basketball throughout the winter and work on their routines for an upcoming competition. 

Kirven said she’s had exchange students on her team in the past, but never two at the same time. 

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Bulletin photo by Jessi Dodge Buffalo High School varsity football hosted Green River on Friday evening, Sept. 10, 2021 for a close win of 20-19 over Green River. This makes Buffalo 2-0 on the season so far.

“That’s unheard of,” she said. “And to have two that have brought so much positivity and dedication to our team… these girls are never absent, they show up. They’re dependable. They work hard, and they’re good cheerleaders. They’re a great addition.”

The girls also are able to share their culture with their teammates, Kirven said. American students, she said, are curious about their teammates’ hometowns in Spain. Cots is from Barcelona and Sanchez is from Basque Country, a community whose heritage is still prevalent in Johnson County. 

And the team has given a lot to Sanchez and Cots too. Both said they were pleasantly surprised to find that their teammates didn’t fit the “mean girl” stereotype portrayed in a lot of American high schools shown in movies. 

The team practiced before the first day of school, so both girls were able to start the school year off with friends. With a team.

“At least we have our cheer team,” Sanchez said. “I know I have these friends. I have my team.”

Kirven said she’s disappointed that Sanchez and Cots will return to Spain in June and won’t be able to cheer next year. 

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Bulletin photo by Jessi Dodge Buffalo High School varsity football hosted Green River on Friday evening, Sept. 10, 2021 for a close win of 20-19 over Green River. This makes Buffalo 2-0 on the season so far.

Cots said she feels the same.

“I just love it,” she said. “I know this is the only year we can do it, but I just love it.”

Alex joined the Bulletin in March 2021 and covers health care, energy and natural resources. Reach out with ideas or comments at alex@buffalobulletin.com.

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