By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Growing up in McAlester, Kaylee Harvanek spent her Friday nights at Hook Eales Stadium watching the Buffaloes.
More accurately, she spent parts of her Friday nights watching the Buffs. Because a lot of the time, she’d watch the sidelines and McAlester’s Pom squad.
“I always just wanted to be one of those girls,” Harvanek said Tuesday. “To be able to go down there and do what I love, and also watch one of my favorite sports at the same time and support the boys.”
Harvanek said she’s been dancing for 16 years. She spent seven years with Angie’s Dance Plus, switched to Pam’s Academy of Dance for eight more, and now takes classes at both studios.
“My first year of dance, I was on stage, and it was a tap dance,” Harvanek. “It was the first time I’d ever been on stage in a recital, and I was scared to death. I started crying and I ran off stage. My mom finally talked me into going back out there and finishing the dance, and after that, I never wanted to come off the stage.”
Though experienced with multiple styles of dance, Harvanek said her favorite is contemporary.
“To me, contemporary shows a lot of raw emotion, and it’s a really easy way for me to show that emotion,” Harvanek said. “I can connect with the music really well, and I love to be able to tell the story of something when I dance and try to get others to understand what I’m feeling.
“It’s the easiest way to say everything I need to say.”
Harvanek first tried out for Pom in the spring of her eighth-grade year at Puterbaugh Middle School. McAlester picks a new Pom squad every year, and even veteran Pom dancers have to try out each spring.
“Mostly, I just remember the butterflies in my stomach before I went out there,” Harvanek said of her first tryout. “But I loved it once I got to go out there and perform and show what I could do.”
Now a senior, Harvanek has made the Pom squad all four years of high school. A co-captain as a junior last year, Harvanek moved up to captain this year, along with fellow senior Cambrea Lott.
“I’m supposed to be an example for the rest of my girls,” Harvanek said. “Motivating them and keeping them motivated, sometimes it can be really hard, but it’s definitely one of the most important parts of being in the captain’s role. If you don’t look like you’re motivated, then why should they be motivated?”
Harvanek’s leadership helped the team earn several awards at a Tulsa University camp over the summer, and individually Harvanek earned a tryout to the Universal Dance Association staff. The tryout won’t be until next summer, Harvanek said, so she’s able to concentrate on this season.
The Lady Buffs’ goals this season include taking back the state title they couldn’t defend last year, then making the finals at Nationals in two separate categories.
Harvanek said competing at Nationals is “a feeling you’ve never experienced before,” but football games are still her favorite place to perform.
“With the cheerleaders, you’re all there together, and you’re all part of this game, and everyone wants (the boys) to win,” Harvanek said. “You just feel like you’re part of something bigger than your everyday life when you’re on the field Friday night.”
Once she graduates, Harvanek said she plans to go to the University of Oklahoma. She might try to walk onto the Pom squad there, and she’ll major in nursing.
“I’ve always been really interested in the medical field,” Harvanek said.
“I like to be more hands-on, so hopefully I’ll be a nurse-practitioner one day.”
Between school, college classes at Eastern Oklahoma State College in McAlester and Pom squad commitments, Harvanek can only take three dance classes this fall. In the past, she said, she’s taken as many as eight at one time and also taught, and in her free time she enjoys hunting, fishing and being outdoors.
Harvanek grew up in a football-loving family, her father a fan of Texas A&M and her mother a fan of the University of Alabama. Harvanek, a Sooners fan, joined the Pom squad, while her younger sister Morgan, another Sooners fan and freshman at McAlester High School, became a cheerleader.
“I definitely enjoy having my sister here with me and being able to experience my last year and her first year together,” Harvanek said.
“She’s always wanted to be a cheerleader, and I can look over, and she’s smiling and enjoying herself. She loves the game and she loves what she does, and I like being able to watch that.”
For the Lady Buffs to accomplish their goals, Harvanek said it will take a combination of blood, sweat, conditioning and effort.
In their senior captain, the Lady Buffs have that exact combination.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.