Haley Tostenson poses for a photo on the ice as a member of the University of Minnesota hockey cheer team. Photo submitted.
By David Richards
It's all paying off.
The early mornings.
The trips back and forth to the rink in Rochester.
The sack dinners after softball practice and before skating.
The homework in between.
After balancing volleyball, softball, school work and ice skating in high school, Haley Tostenson is well into her freshman year at the University of Minnesota and busy once again.
The 2013 Byron graduate is taking full semester loads as an elementary education major and juggling that with a spot on the highly competitive hockey cheer team.
"It's incredible," Tostenson said of the experience so far. "Thinking back on it, I can't imagine my first semester of college without that opportunity."
Tostenson turned down chances to play softball for St. Mary's University in Winona and both volleyball and softball at Bethel for The U, trading small-town life for the big city.
"I wasn't sure I wanted to go to a bigger school because I loved my small town," Tostenson said. "But I really like it so far."
The Byron native has skated since she was 4 and jumped at the chance to try out with the hockey cheer team her senior year in high school.
It was a grueling three-day task, with 30 girls trying out for four spots, but in the end, Tostenson made it and is the only freshman on the roster.
"It's been awesome," she said.
A part of a family of hockey fans, Tostenson's parents don't miss a home game and say that all the long hours of practices were well worth it.
"We invest in our daughters to give them the tools to succeed," said Eric Tostenson, Haley's father.
Haley Tostenson said the hours are long.
The cheer team has practice multiple times a week, does weight lifting on its own, sprints stairs for two hours on Mondays with the rest of the spirit squad and then does routines at home games, usually on the weekends.
The squad members do a routine on the ice before a game and in between periods, while also lacing up their tennis shoes during the game to cheer in the stands.
It's a lot," she said. "The conditioning is so much greater than in high school."
If the highly touted Gophers go on to the playoffs, which are in Philadelphia this year, the cheer squad will go too, as will Tostenson's parents.
As for Haley Tostenson, she is simply enjoying college life, while of course staying busy.
"She's always done more than just skating," Eric Tostenson said. "She also goes to church on Wednesdays and has a bible study, but she won't tell you those things because that's just what she does."