Cheer Wins First Place at USA Regionals, Will Advance to Nationals


Emma Haag

Flyer and freshman Hanna Kim hits a scale at a Portola High practice on Feb. 4. The preparation for the USA All Star Grand Championships involves a mix of performances at sports events – like basketball games – and independent competitive practices after school each day.

The Bulldogs placed first in the Varsity Show Cheer Novice category at the United Spirit Association (USA) Southern California Regional VI competition on Jan. 21. The team will advance to the USA All Star Grand Championships in Anaheim, California on Feb. 26, where roughly 30 teams will compete for national victory.

At regionals, the Bulldogs’ competing team included a mix of JV cheer team members and Portola Pep Squad members. No deductions were made to the team’s raw score – 94.60 – indicating a perfect routine, according to head varsity cheer coach Allie Mackey.

“Our team went into the locker rooms because we were on our campus so we could do that, and we played the video [showing the results],” base and sophomore Ellany Scott said. “We just started jumping down and crying, and I loved it. I love that feeling.”

The Bulldogs prepared one routine consisting of tumbling, elite, jump and dance sections, choreographed by USA cheerleading program director and Downey High head cheer coach Conner Huber. The routine also featured a stunt where cheerleaders formed a pyramid along with a crowd-interactive Bulldog cheer, according to Mackey. Practices for the competition began in October 2021, spanning five days a week.

“I definitely felt like the routine we performed was one of our best in terms of stunting and crowd engagement, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when we won,” flyer and sophomore Ashley Tabayoyong said. “That being said, you never know what the judges are looking for, so the first place spot wasn’t guaranteed, and we all had a lot of anxiety waiting for awards.”

The competition marked the first time Portola High was the host campus for this competition. As compensation for occupancy, USA set aside 20% of spectator ticket sales and profits earned by the event’s snack vendors for Portola High’s pep squad boosters.

Over 190 cheer and dance teams from across Southern California performed at the competition from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Spectators were limited to each performing team’s friends and family, in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines, according to Mackey.

“I always say this to the girls, like ‘We aren’t here to beat out other teams; we’re here to do our own very best. And if our own best is the best, then that’s awesome,’” Mackey said. “It’s the most proud I’ve ever been because I know that they did their own best.”