A tragic airplane crash claimed the lives of six Rapid City cheerleaders and three adults on March 17, 1968.
The group was returning from the state "A" basketball tournament in Sioux Falls, and the plane burst into flames when attempting to land at Rapid City Municipal Airport.
Killed in the accident were the entire cheerleading squad; Shirley Landstrom, Kay McNutt, Terry Blanton, Jan Glaze, Gail Flohr and Diane McCluskey; plus adults Mary Landstrom, Ivan Landstrom (the pilot) and Dorothy Lloyd (squad advisor and English teacher).
The Rapid City Journal reported the next day: "Rapid City school officials, stunned along with the rest of the community at the airplane crash which took the lives of the entire varsity cheerleading squad Sunday, announced the senior high school would be closed Monday "in respect and remembrance for those who lost their lives.'" The newspaper quoted school officials who described the cheerleaders as "the cream of the crop."
The Spirit of Six award is now given to standout cheerleading squads each year at the South Dakota state basketball tournaments to honor Rapid City's perished cheerleaders. The award was first given in 1970 by the South Dakota Peace Officers Association in cooperation with the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
In addition to a memorial at Central High School, a second memorial honoring the cheerleaders may be located at the old Rapid City High School, which is now the Performing Arts Center. The memorial would be placed outside for the public to view and would feature an interpretive plaque with a description of the girls’ legacy.