Varsity Cheer Team Places 11th in District Competition

The cheerleaders wait for the competition to start.

Kate Stout, Editor-in-chief

Following significant changes in the age and experience level of its members, the varsity cheer team placed 11th at their district competition. 

“States, it was a lot of fun. The girls really love to go away and hang out, it’s kind of like a mini vacation for them. So overall, I think that it was a good time,” Assistant Coach Shannon Muller said. “We started out (and) we had a big team dinner. We were able to go do things that they wouldn’t normally get a chance to do.”

The competition was a chance for team bonding, especially because so many cheerleaders had graduated the previous year. Building a team dynamic is imperative for a quality performance for this season and for future seasons. 

“The season has definitely been a lot more challenging, because we had eight seniors leave last year. So we have a relatively new team, a young team, I should say. And that’s posed its challenges because a few of them are in middle school,” Head Coach Jennifer Araujo explained.

As a result of the influx of younger students Coach Araujo found herself juggling many different skill and experience levels within the team. However, with extra tumbling practice and more time spent practicing she hopes to help them elevate their skills. 

“We did kind of like a big sister, little sister program,” Araujo explained. “So it’s like, you know, the older cheerleaders that have been here that are a little more experienced are pairing up with some of the newer girls, which has actually been pretty helpful as a program.” 

The new year also meant new student leaders for the team, Kiersten Tufino remained a captain and Junior Sabrina Cruz became a co-captain. As a captain and a more experienced cheerleader Cruz is helping ease the transition for many younger students as they develop their skills.  

“I have to be a good role model to especially the younger people since seniors graduated last year. Like, I’m one of the oldest people now. So I definitely think showing the girls a good example is very important,” Cruz shared. 

Knowing that the composition of the team had changed drastically since last year, Cruz expected that it would likely take some time to get the younger students used to competition cheer. She was excited, however, when she found out that the team had placed first in their first competition of the season. 

“I think that was a really good achievement of mine, because I just wasn’t expecting it,” Cruz said. “Because I really, I’m going to be honest, I really thought that this team would need a lot of work. And I knew that we could get to a good stage at one point. But I didn’t think we would get it that fast. And I’m super proud of my team.”

While the season was not entirely smooth sailing, the team continued to consistently maintain a high enough raw score to compete at the state level. One obstacle that did trip up some students, though, was nerves.  

“They had a few competitions that were a little rough because they were scared when they went out. They hit it on the warm up mat, and then we went out on the real competition mat and things went a little bit south, but I know that they’re gonna grow and they’ll be great cheerleaders by the time they reach high school.” 

The second competition also included a minor speed bump. In cheerleading there is both a sideline team and competition team, sometimes students will make it onto the sideline team but not the competition team. This was initially true for 8th grader Jayden Cooper, until she had to step in after another cheerleader was injured. 

“She hurt her ankle. I didn’t make (the competition team) at first. So when she just texted me she was like ‘Hey, can you make it to practice?’ and I just showed up because I’ll take the opportunity every day,” Cooper shared. “I was kind of scared to be honest. I like (I thought) that I was going to get in trouble.” 

Cooper is a flyer for the cheer team and despite her unconventional path onto the competitive team, found herself to be one of only three 8th graders on the team. Even with a mild fear of being dropped by her fellow cheerleaders, she still enjoys bonding with the team and being in the air. 

“You kind of just, like, forget everything, you just forget everything about the world and then you just focus on what you have to do,” Cooper said.  

The season was deemed overall successful by Coach Araujo and she was thrilled to see the team make it to state. While this year has been different from last year Araujo was still glad to see the cheerleaders being supported by their community, especially at one competition in particular. 

“Even though we didn’t do great at the competition that the moment happened in, I was really excited to see the number of parents and alumni cheerleaders from last year that came back to our last competition to cheer on the new girls,” Araujo explained. 

Although Cruz found last year to be about trying to end many cheerleader’s high school athletic careers on a high note, she believes this year to be more about developing the skills of younger students and remains hopeful for the future. 

“I think that these girls have a lot of potential. And I definitely see it in them. And with enough work, hard work and dedication, I think that we can really make it to the top,” Cruz shared. “And I’m just happy and glad to see these girls in their development and hopefully, more years to come, you know, have the same or even higher stakes.”