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She took a smearing, and kept on cheering

A Washington State high school cheerleader had quite a week — she survived a car wreck, was crowned homecoming queen and a video of her being trampled at a football game made her an instant minicelebrity.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

It’s a scene familiar at thousands of high schools across the country. The cheerleaders stretch a hand-painted paper banner across the field, the band plays the school’s fight song, the crowd roars, the team charges through the banner and flattens the homecoming queen.

Hold it. Rewind to the bit about the homecoming queen being mowed down by the team. That wasn’t the way they drew it up on the blackboard.

Can you show that part again? And again? And again?

Until last Friday, Cali Kaltschmidt was just one of thousands of homecoming queens and tens of thousands of cheerleaders at high schools great and small across the United States. And then, just as the Auburn (Wash.) High School Trojans were about to burst through the banner and onto the field, Kaltschmidt noticed a slight flaw with the way the paper was hanging. So she left her post next to it, dashed to the spot that needed fixing, reached up to do a quick bit of housekeeping, and ... SPLAT!

“I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she told NBC News with a smile that was, well, cheerful. “It’s funny, I guess.”

She guesses right. But at the time, it was frightening.

Zach Tate, a 6-foot-2-inch, 245-pound tower of armored muscle hit her head-on at what looked like warp speed. Both went down in a pile, tangled in the paper banner.

Image: Cheerleader Cali Kalschmidt

Cali’s twin sister Sierra, also a cheerleader, ran over to assess the damage. Luckily, Kaltschmidt suffered no injury other than a bruised jaw and a dislodged rhinestone tiara. Sierra tended to the most serious damage, quickly setting her sibling’s crown back in its proper place. On the sidelines, she got an ice pack for her jaw.

And then, like the trouper that she is, Cali went back to cheerleading.

She said her boyfriend, who’s on the football team, was unaware that she had been squished.

“He didn’t even notice it happened,” she said, adding that he saw her later sitting on the bench with the ice pack on her jaw and asked what happened. “He said, ‘I’m sorry,’” Cali reported.

What makes it more amazing is that the accident, which has been played endlessly on the Internet, wasn’t even the worst thing that happened to Cali in what was for her an eventful week.

On Thursday morning, she wrecked her car, escaping with just a banged-up knee and a bruise on her neck from the seat belt. That night, she was elected homecoming queen. The next day, she had her unscheduled encounter with Tate.

And now she’s an Internet and television star, the spunky brunette who took a smearing and kept on cheering.

“It’s not something I’d want to be known for, I guess,” she told a local television station earlier this week. “I mean it was really embarrassing.”

Yes, it was, but could you play it again?