Portola Pilot

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Cheer squad practices a new routine for its upcoming performances.

Cheer squad practices a new routine for its upcoming performances.

John Xie

John Xie

Cheer squad practices a new routine for its upcoming performances.

John Xie, Chloe Ma, and Jenny Zhang

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With a passion for performance and dance, blended in with their energetic personalities, they gather together each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to spread their positive attitudes with everyone within hearing distance. Driven by their enthusiasm, these girls form the cheer squad of Portola High School.

Cheer squad head coach Allyson Waggoner, who started the program last year, designs each practice to be effective for cheer squad members.

“Each practice starts with very specific stretching routines. The girls do a dynamic warm up, which is different from static stretching,” said Waggoner, who added a weekly tumbling class this year. “We also do progressions with our stunts to keep our kids safe and make sure they are hitting the lower stunts before they progress onto the higher stunts.”

Athleticism, coordination and skills, such as stunting and tumbling, are all required. Aside from running one mile every practice, cheer squad members build endurance in order to yell and perform two-and-half minute routines at sports games and cheer squad competitions.

“Coordination-wise, it’s essential for them to do the same motion with their body every single time or else something can go wrong. A stunt could drop,” Waggoner said.

Practice times usually double up during basketball and football season, in addition to competitions in basketball season. As cheer squad prepares for competition week, Waggoner devises a faster routine to acclimate them to the same conditions as the competition.

“We would go practice, then game, and we would have to come home about 9:00. Yesterday, I went home at 9 p.m. and have to stay up until 1 a.m. to do my homework,” sophomore Alexandra Beltran said.

Cheer team members must give their all not just to satisfy their own passions, but also to be an integral part of a successful routine.         

“You have to give full commitment, because if you aren’t there some days, then it really affects the entire team. It doesn’t just affect how you are doing but it affects how the entire team is doing,” freshman Ryan Aguilar said.

Compared to last year’s cheer team with only 16 freshmen, this year has seen huge improvements in membership with 30 members. In a skill factor aspect, coaches are trying to build intermediate level skills in the cheer squad members in order to prepare them for varsity next year.

“We have been working on a lot of one-legged skills with those pyramids, doing different checks and hitting different positions in the air with their flexibility, so that’s been really testing their limits,” assistant coach Kristen Raney said.

Team membership and competitiveness have improved noticeably, but more than anything, the cheer squad seems to have become like a second family to its members.

“Cheer is not just self-involved. You can’t be selfish in this sport. You have to keep in mind another person’s ability and skills. With this kind of team bond, cheer really requires all of us to form a family, rather than just being teammates,” Beltran said.

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