BELVIDERE (WIFR) -- One year ago, a fatal accident broke hearts across our community, hearts that are still trying to mend. The community continues to mourn the loss of two Belvidere North cheerleaders killed while driving to a school basketball game.
Flowers, flamingos, and two colorful crosses stand along a snowy stretch of route 76 in Belvidere. It’s a makeshift memorial for best friends Brenda Gutierrez and Thalia Arredondo, two Belvidere North
Cheerleaders, who died in a crash one year ago. For their cheerleading coach Tammy Rentschler, it’s still hard to believe.
“They were flyers, most angels are flyers. They were best friends but total opposites,” Rentschler remembers.
They were total opposites who shared a love for cheering; something their team keeps in mind every time they step onto the gym floor.
“There were some times when you’d have tears but most of the time, they'd work just as hard as Brenda and Thalia would work," says Rentschler about how her team has coped with the lost over the last year.
The team’s hard work has paid off; they won the NIC-10 cheer competition for the second year in a row. Rentschler describes the evening as magical.
“Before they went on I told them you need to go out and have fun. You’re in your home gym, with your home crowd, with your angels in the house, what could be more fun!" says Rentschler.
Two weeks before the crash, Rentschler and her co-coach had an unexpected lunch date with the girls, a meal Rentschler will always remember. After a competition in Springfield, members of the squad stopped for dinner but the party had to split up into 2 separate tables. The seniors took one, the coaches and Brenda and Thalia took the other.
"I’m sure they were thinking, “Great we got the coaches table” but we had an hour and a half with just Brenda and Thalia right across from us talking about boys and parents and where they wanted to go to college and it was great to have that one on one attention with them,” Rentschler remembers.
The coach of 13 years says it’s her team's collected memories of “The Perfect Two” that's helped the entire squad move forward.
"We know they’re there in our hearts. They're with us all the time, there's not a day goes by that you don't think about them," Rentscler says.
The best friends would have been seniors this year. At the senior night for the cheer squad, many of the students wore special bright pink t-shirts in honor of the girls. Brenda and Thalia shared a silly sense of humor. One video they posted on YouTube shows them performing to the song “The Perfect Two". It has been viewed over a million times.