Pep Squad Flies to the Top at Regional Competition


Competition cheer placed first in the Novice Varsity Show Cheer category at the United Spirit Association regional competition hosted at Portola High on Jan. 21. The members’ success at the regional level qualified the team for the USA Nationals competition, which will take place Feb. 2426 in Anaheim. 

Nearly sixty teams across Southern California participated in the competition, fighting for the number one spot in five categories, according to head coach Michele Correll. Teams took turns performing their routines in the gym for the scoring judges, receiving a score sheet with their final point total. 

“Our stunts are of a high level of difficulty and done constantly throughout the routine,” Correll said. “We showed signs of bulldog paws as we said, ‘Put your paws up!’ So we incorpated signs, poms and stunting into the routine, and I think having our cheers being more creative and fun allowed us to stand out from the rest of the teams.”

After months of practice involving intense conditioning and choreography repetition, watching the team perform was nothing but exciting, according to Correll. 

The atmosphere was really special because everyone there knows, ‘This is Portola. This is their team. And we really got to show them that this is our house.

— Hanna Kim

“This group came from all different walks of cheer: people that had never done cheer before, people that only have done sideline cheer before and people who have been in competition cheer before,” Correll said. “To put that routine on the mat, they work so hard. I know that my assistant coach and I were just extremely proud of them.”

Although the team already attended another United Spirit Association regional competition at a different school earlier in January, this competition’s location on campus made it special for members of the team, according to sophomore and flyer Hanna Kim.

“The atmosphere was really special because everyone there knows, ‘This is Portola. This is their team,’” Kim said. “And we really got to show them that this is our house.”

Team members were selected through a rigorous tryout process in September and prepared for the competition since October, according to Correll. 

“Practices leading up to the competition were stressful,” junior and back spot Sarah Liu said. “It’s definitely a lot of work and a lot of focus going into those practices to be able to perfect our routine. We had to have our heads in the game.”

The team had two returning members this season while the other 12 were new to competition cheer. For Liu who is new to the team, she was able to rely on returning members for guidance regarding fast-paced stunting throughout the difficult season.

“We’ve supported each other in this learning experience because it’s definitely challenging for all of us to be able to learn these routines, these stunts and these sequences,” Liu said. “I feel like our motivation and energy have really sparked a bond between us, allowing us to work together successfully as a team.”

To prepare for nationals, the team plans to continue their practice schedule and dedicate more time and effort to rehearsing choreography and hitting stunts, according to Liu. 

“We have plenty of time between now and nationals,” Liu said. “But at the same time, it’s going to be a lot of work to make sure that we are performing to the best of our ability in the competition.”