Buffalo Grove High School's cheerleading squad is hoping for a three-peat at this weekend's IHSA state championships in Bloomington.
Three is a significant number for another reason -- three of the members of this year's crew are siblings: senior Karson McEwen, junior Kennedy McEwen and freshman Bobby McEwen.
Karson and Kennedy have been on hand for both championships, while Bobby is still waiting to taste that experience directly, having only been able to enjoy it as a spectator.
"I have had siblings before on the team, but this year it is a little different, because I actually have three," Coach Jeff Siegal. "Sometimes it's comical to watch, the way that they interact and talk to each other. It's great, though. The two girls keep their brother in check."
All three, dad Kris McEwen said, have distinct personalities. He said Karson still gets nervous at times even though she is the hardened veteran, while Kennedy is fearless and Bobby is laid back.
The latter would seem to be indicated by Bobby's statement, "They get in arguments a lot, and I kind of just try to stay out of it."
Kris McEwen said the three are closer than many siblings in high school, because they are part of a team.
"There are times when outside life will spill into cheer life" and vice versa, he said. "If they have a rough practice and they don't think one of them is carrying their weight like they are supposed to, it will carry over into home life a little bit."
Karson said, "At home, we talk a lot about the attitude during practice or how to act, how not to act. Things to do better, things to work on."
Having been on the squad together for three years, Karson and Kennedy, he said, have developed into best friends.
Kennedy said, "I don't know cheerleading without my sister. She is the reason that I was a cheerleader. For a couple years, I planned on being a pom and a dancer, but she is the reason that I love what I do. Every day I get to look forward to cheerleading because of her."
She said having an older sister made her better, "because I knew what I was getting into and got to see what was happening behind the scenes. The same with my younger brother. He got to see what was happening with cheer and with practices and he got to go to competitions."
Bobby said his interest in cheerleading grew out of seventh grade and his first tumbling class. It continued to grow as he became exposed to his sisters' successes at state. He said one of the motivating factors for him is helping his team grab the third championship.
"It's really awesome, because you get to be a part of a team that has won so much and deserves it all," he said.
Karson said the experience of going for a third championship is unreal. "I can't even put words into it. To be able to do it twice is amazing. Even to get this shot to do it again, it's unbelievable."
The competition, she said, is going to be strong.
"Everyone's good this year," she said, with "10 amazing coed teams."
Her coach agrees.
"The competition in the coed division this year is stronger than it's ever been, and it's going to be very tough," Siegal said.
One hundred teams will compete Friday in four categories -- small, medium, large and coed. Ten in each category will advance to the finals Saturday.
Siegal has led a coed team to the state championships eight of the last 11 years. He said what makes it especially difficult is the subjective element in the results, similar to diving or gymnastics.
"In basketball, if you're up by 10 points with a second left, you know you've won. In cheerleading, you can hit a clean routine and not win," he said.
On Thursday, the school gave the team a rousing send off, with more than 100 people in attendance and, Kennedy said, "Lots of confetti."