The Ribbons and Bows Behind School Spirit

Junior Jessalyn Nguyen chants “victory!” while in her stunt. Nguyen is one of the team’s many fliers, and has been a flier for three years

Julia Kim and Priscilla Baek

Adorned in white flower crowns and stage makeup, the school’s biggest spirit leaders: cheer, dances to pop songs and leads chants to the enthusiastic crowd. Behind the energetic football games and pep rallies, the cheer team is working hard to promote school spirit. From 2:15 to 4:30 p.m., cheerleaders are running routines while keeping their nerves and health in check.

“Some of the stunts that the cheerleaders do are actually not done at high school level competitions, but are usually done at the college level. The girls have worked really hard with their coach to develop these stunts that we call ‘crowd pleasers,’” said cheer advisor Courtney Moder. “We will actually be starting competitive season in the winter and have our first competition in December! From a sports psychology standpoint, an athlete that truly believes they can do something is much more likely to be successful.”

This year, two new staff members have been chosen to lead the cheer team. Moder, the cheer advisor, is actually from a competitive roller figure skating background with experience on Team USA for the World Championships. She has been working with head coach Allie Leyva to help the girls train. While the team had some trouble at the beginning of the season adjusting, the girls, Moder and Leyva have quickly bonded, working hard to interact with the school to create a stronger cheer team.

“We definitely had a rocky start this season as we had no coach, but our new coach has done so much for us already and been so interactive with both the team and the school,” captain and junior Alex Beltran said. “Our practices seem much more efficient and effective with her around.”

Now being held to a higher standard with a competitive mindset, the girls have been consistently performing in front of full varsity football stands and reaping the efforts of their hard work. Attending mandatory practices every day after school, the girls strive to learn and perform new dances, stunts and pyramids. Recently, they have choreographed dances involving stunts to remixes at pep rallies and half-time shows.

“To prevent injuries, especially for flyers, we ensure that there are multiple spotters – people ready to catch flyers if they fall – when they are trying to learn a new skill,” freshman Mukta Sarwate said. “[Leyva] has prepared us by ensuring that our motions in dances and cheers are sharp, that we are coordinated and solid when stunting, and always motivates us to put in our best effort during games and at practice.”

While the girls strive to improve, their safety always comes first, especially as they work towards creating cleaner routines with high-scoring pyramids and tricks. With a handful of teammates who can perform gymnastics including back handsprings, back tucks or battements, the team has been accentuating its best tricks for the crowd.

“Now that we’re varsity level, everything became more real in cheer. Our practices and coaches expect more from us, and because of the competition element to our team, we are expected to exceed anything we have accomplished before,” Beltran said. “Definitely expect more during our performances throughout the year!”