The Schuyler Central High School cheerleaders lined up along the baseline Thursday night to root for the varsity girls in their game against Boys Town.
Among the smiling faces and pompoms was first-year cheerleader Adolfo Cruz.
The 18-year-old senior said dancing has always been one of his biggest passions. That passion led him to try out for the SCHS dance team earlier in his high school career.
“I tried out for dance the beginning of my sophomore year,” Cruz said. “But I didn’t make it. I was a little sad about it, but I wanted to keep trying. The next year, when I was a junior, I started to really get into cheer. I saw the sequel to 'Bring It On' and thought, ‘You know, I can do that.’”
Cruz followed this hunch and tried out for the cheer team at the beginning of his senior year.
“I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it, not even my mom," he said. "So after I found out I made the team, I called her and told her what had happened."
"‘You did what?'" he said, describing her response.
"Mom was a little surprised, but she was so happy I made it.”
So far, the journey has been a pleasant one for the Schuyler native.
“It’s been really awesome,” Cruz said. “I had friends on the team already, those who were in my grade, but I’ve been able to make friends with the other girls in lower grades and we all have a lot of fun.”
While he isn’t a flyer for the cheerleading team, he does have another important job for the more acrobatic stunts.
“I’m a base for the flyer and back spot for some of our routines,” Cruz explained. “That means I get behind the flyer and help her to get up on other girls’ shoulders. I’m also there to catch whoever is coming down from the fly.”
The strenuous physical feats were a bit difficult at first, Cruz said. Some aches and pains came with the job, but he has since gotten used to it.
The school's lone male cheerleader has received support along the way from coach Ashlie Stone and Activities Director Jim Kasik.
Any negative attention is easily outweighed by the positives.
“This has been the best experience for me,” Cruz said. “I’ve always loved to dance. If there wasn’t some element of dance in cheer, then I wouldn’t do it. But I’m so glad I was able to be a part of this.”
Cruz plans to attend Wayne State College after he graduates from high school.
New Year’s resolutions can be difficult to commit to, but with dedication and support they can be achieved.
Many Schuyler residents find this support at Anytime Fitness, where owners Kim and Glenn Ennen help clients achieve their fitness goals.
“We do what we can to switch things up around here and make it fun,” Kim said. “I know one of the more popular challenges we could have done was a weight loss one, but that’s a given, so I started this planking challenge.”
Planking is an exercise where people sustain themselves on their elbows and feet, like a push-up.
Presenting different challenges to their clients is just one way the Ennens keep gym members motivated.
“One of the things I love to do here is to meet new people,” Glenn said. “I know everyone’s name here and I also get to know what they need from the gym. We’re all a little family here and I really think that’s how you keep a business in a small town. I know it makes everyone feel better about bettering themselves, too.”
This environment seems to work for Keli Aguilera. The Schuyler resident has been getting back into shape for six months.
“I didn’t start this as a resolution,” Aguilera said. "I just started this last summer because I always wanted to be able to jog. It’s something any human should be able to do.”
Aguilera ran on a treadmill next to her mother, Lisa Grant, who was working out for a different reason.
“I have to lose at least 40 pounds,” Grant said. “I’m getting married in August and want to look nice in my wedding dress.”
While New Year's resolutions are common, they don't drive business at Anytime Fitness.
“Our numbers are pretty slow in January,” Kim explained. “But they pick up as the year goes on. Come May, we are very busy around here."
The Ennens maintain an upbeat attitude to ensure their clients stay encouraged while working toward their exercise goals.
“We genuinely care about the people that come in here,” Glenn said. “We want them to do their best, and we give them a chance to do that.”
The Schuyler Community Schools Field House has been put to good use since it opened about a year ago.
Members of the community have been able to use the 30,000 square feet of athletic space for a number of activities.
The $1.5 million multipurpose facility includes an artificial turf surface for football and soccer, courts for basketball and volleyball, netting for baseball and a track for walkers and runners.
It's open to both SCS students and the public.
“The field house is a great place for everyone to come work out and practice when the weather is bad,” said Schuyler Middle School Assistant Principal Jesse Zavadil, who serves as co-director of the facility. “There are usually a lot of kids here playing all kinds of sports, not just soccer or basketball. It can be reserved for teams and community sports practices, but if the schools need it at the same time, they have priority over the community.”
“We also want senior citizens of Schuyler to know that they can always walk here,” Zavadil added. “ ... Anyone, it doesn’t matter your age, is welcome to come here and use the field house. It’s a community building after all.”
The field house is open during the school year and throughout the summer.
“Activity is a little slower in the summer, but people still come out,” Zavadil said. “There are maybe 15 people that come out every day in the summer, but winter sees around 50 people.”
A recent Saturday afternoon proved his words true.
Nearly every area of the field house was being used by Schuyler residents of varying ages and athletic abilities.
Kevin Martinez was shooting hoops on his day off from classes at Schuyler Central High School. For the 15-year-old, there aren't many days off from basketball.
“I’ve been playing since I was 1 year old,” he said. “My dad taught me how to play and I never really stopped. When the field house opened up I started coming every single day, even in the summer. I want to be an NBA player in the future, it’s always been my biggest dream, so I will never stop practicing.”
The field house, located next to Schuyler Middle School, hosts a number of physical education classes and team practices for SCS, including the youth basketball program.
“There is expected to be a huge turnout for the team this year,” Zavadil said of the program for kindergarten through sixth-grade students. “This year there are going to be 60 kids in middle school basketball. That's a huge number and us being able to use the field house is going to really help our district build more sport-specific skills. It’ll help the kids be more competitive, too.”
One future SCHS Warrior is Marco Domingo, who brought his friend Wilmer Delgado to the field house to play football.
“We both want to play football next year for school,” Domingo said, "so we come here about once a week to practice passing and catching. We’re really glad the house is here for us all the time. We’re here every day anyway because our school uses this for PE.”
The field house is open to the public 6-9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 1-9 p.m. Sundays. Senior walking hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. when school is in session.
An annual pass is $10 for students, $20 for senior citizens and $40 for adults. Schuyler Elementary students can use the facility at no charge if they're accompanied by a paying adult.
The plan was always for Nick Oertwich to come back to work on the family farm near Pilger after attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
But following graduation, Oertwich stayed in Lincoln to work. Now, with the financial incentive that raising chickens for Costco promises, he plans to move back to the area to work on the family farm.
Nick’s father, Doug, who serves on the Stanton County Planning Commission and is seeking the District 22 seat in the state Legislature, found out about the opportunity when he was asked to serve on an advisory board for Lincoln Premium Poultry, the company that is building a large processing plant in Fremont that will provide broiler chickens for Costco. The board consists of one person from the six counties surrounding Dodge County, where the plant is located.
Lincoln Premium Poultry is managing the operations in Fremont, including recruiting farmers to sign contracts to raise poultry, overseeing construction of the processing facilities and recruiting employees for when the plant opens in about a year.
Doug Oertwich says a poultry operation adds diversification and makes his 700-acre corn and soybean farm less reliant on sagging grain markets. Although new to raising poultry, he isn’t worried.
“I’ve worked with guys that raise hogs and cattle, and like any other animal, everything is in the details,” Oertwich said.
Raising poultry will be a first for many of the 125 producers Lincoln Premium Poultry is hoping to sign to contracts. To help, the company plans on building a show house where producers and prospective producers can see how operators run the computers and equipment in poultry houses. The company also will send field technicians to help area farmers and make sure best practices are implemented and followed.
As of mid-December, Lincoln Premium Poultry was in the later stages of negotiations with 80 area farmers. The company anticipates it will be recruiting operators through the late spring and early summer.
One of the first formal applications, from a Valparaiso-area farmer, went before the Saunders County Planning Commission on Monday.
Oertwich has traveled to Delaware, Maryland, Alabama and Georgia with other members of the advisory board to meet producers and hear about their experience raising birds.
“We didn’t meet anyone who said they wouldn’t do it again,” Oertwich said of the positive feedback he heard from producers around the country.
Despite the positive response from farmers, not everyone is eager for the poultry processing plant to open in Fremont.
John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said the organization has encouraged people to form a producers association so they will have negotiating power in the future if they need it. Hansen said the Farmers Union has not taken an official position on the processing plant since it has members that both support and oppose it.
“The problem occurs when there is a disparity in level of power in a contract,” Hansen said. “How do you protect the smaller, less-powerful entity when the more-powerful party in the agreement is going to shape the contract for their benefit?”
Hansen added that from what he knows of the contracts, they're better than most in the industry.
“It’s all relative, though, because the reputation of contracts in the poultry business is awful," he said. "So having a higher standard isn’t in itself greater for the farmer."
Hansen cited the 15-year contract term as a positive sign, since farmers will be making $2 million to $2.5 million investments when they construct four poultry houses. Signing a longer contract mitigates risk by guaranteeing farmers 15 years of revenue.
Project manager Walt Shafer said the contracts being offered are some of the best in the country.
“Nebraska farmers are making a sizable investment, and they are trusting in us to do the right thing by them,” Shafer said. “So we are working with Costco to put out a very, very fair contract that gives them every benefit of the doubt.”
Costco recently added a square-footage incentive to producers for completing construction of poultry houses. If a farmer completes four poultry houses, they could receive a check for $120,000, while barns for laying hens may qualify for twice that amount.
“That’s one way for the company to invest in these farmers up front," said Jessica Kolterman of Lincoln Premium Poultry. “And it really helps offset costs on the front side.”
This is the first vertically-integrated poultry operation Costco will be involved with, processing up to 2 million birds a week. In remarks at the groundbreaking for the project in June, Gov. Pete Ricketts said the plant is projected to have a $1.2 billion economic impact to the state, or about 1 percent of the state’s economy.
The processing plant will include the latest technology and advancements in automation, but the processing operation, hatchery and feed mill are estimated to have a labor force of 800 to 1,000 employees.
Kolterman is working with local career-training organizations and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce to identify underemployed or unemployed populations to move into jobs at the poultry plant when it opens.
“People come to work in these facilities from 30 to 60 miles away,” Kolterman said.
Kolterman and Shafer said they've floated the idea of sharing transportation costs or lining up busing if there are large numbers of employees from the Lincoln or Omaha areas.