Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
October 14, 2021
Tears hit the field at Bomber Stadium during pre-game festivities of Kenston High School’s varsity football game when more than 30 alumnae of the Bomberettes dance team returned to honor head coach Kathy Werner at the helm for 30 years.
Band director Jeff Link helped organize the surprise for Mrs. Werner who has been in the same position since 1992. Mr. Link, 44, said that for his last 18 years on the field as band director, the Bomberettes coach has done an outstanding job.
He explained how he has watched other half-time shows thinking rival bands may be better, but the Bomberettes could never be topped by other dance teams or flag lines.
“I hope that she continues to coach the team for as long as I am here,” Mr. Link said.
Last Friday, as speakers announced the commemoration, Mrs. Werner said that she never felt more honored to be recognized in front of a packed stadium during the homecoming game.
After seeing her former students who came from as far away as Texas, including her daughter Nicole, who was on her first dance team, Mrs. Werner said that she was “just so overwhelmed.”
“I just cried,” the coach emotionally explained, “I couldn’t even help myself, because I just could not believe anybody would do that.”
The reunion took place as the Kenston Bombers won against the Willoughby South Rebels 3-0.
Former students such as McKayla Sawyer, who graduated in 2020, spoke about when she first met Mrs. Werner during her freshman year. Ms. Sawyer, 20, of Bainbridge Township, remembered first hearing that Mrs. Werner was “scary” and a “tough coach,” which was difficult for her being the only freshman on the team.
Ms. Sawyer explained that as time went on, Mrs. Werner showed a supportive side despite some practices being more difficult than others.
“She’s a sweetheart, and people just don’t really see that side of her because everybody talks about how scary and tough she is,” Ms. Sawyer said of her former coach.
Ms. Sawyer called her former coach a role model and a “second mom,” adding that she was excited to take part in the Friday night surprise.
“She’s had a huge impact on my life,” she said. “I would not be the person I am today without her.”
Ms. Sawyer’s mother, Kelli, also shared the same sentiment of having Mrs. Werner as a second mother to her daughter.
“I knew that she [Mrs. Werner] would be a wonderful influence in their lives, which is exactly how it played out to be,” said Mrs. Sawyer, 52, of Bainbridge.
Mrs. Sawyer explained that as a mother, she had seen her daughters transform from shy first-year high school students who would “blossom” under Mrs. Werner’s leadership.
“The giving tree of Kathy Werner has absolutely instilled in them [her daughters] discipline, time management, self-confidence and self-respect,” she said.
Mrs. Sawyer also shared a similar feeling of excitement that her daughter shared regarding the surprise on Oct. 8, noting that there could not be a better way to celebrate Mrs. Werner than to be surrounded by her dance team members both past and present.
Others, such as former dance team mom Debbi Pastor, said that she is blessed that Mrs. Werner is a part of the community.
“She deeply cares about every girl on her team,” said Mrs. Pastor, 49, of Auburn Township.
Mrs. Pastor said her daughter wanted to quit the team during her freshman year.
“Kathy [Werner] would not let her quit,” she explained. “She motivated her and worked with her. It was the best life lesson Caitlin [Pastor, Mrs. Pastor’s daughter] ever learned.”
Mrs. Pastor said her family is deeply grateful that they have been able to spend part of their lives with the coach.
“Just saying thank you is not enough.”
While Mrs. Werner has heard in years past that she has made a difference in the lives of her team, she never thought that she would get the ovation that she did.
She said that her goal is to make a difference in a young person’s life to help them be successful.
“Yes, you are going to be on my dance team,” Mrs. Werner elaborated, “but I am going to teach you a life lesson of what it takes to succeed and succeed on my team, so when you leave high school, you have the confidence and the belief in yourself that you can move forward.”
Mrs. Werner said that the commemoration made her believe that she was a successful coach.
Some of her former team members have shared the positive impact of being a Bomberette.
Mrs. Werner also received a box full of hundreds of letters from former members of the team that wanted to personally thank her and congratulate her for reaching the milestone.
While she is not a fan of the lime-light when it comes to the Bomberettes, she recognized that the program would not have thrived without community support.
“My legacy is that I’ve made a difference,” Mrs. Werner explained, “and to make a difference in one child’s life is worth it.”
Visit The Chagrin Valley Ties to view their photo.