Sunday, March 27th, the Cam High Cheer team competed at the United Spirit Association National Championships in Anaheim, California. The team took first place for the fight song routine, second place for the time out dance routine, and third place for the time out cheer routine, while competing against other high school cheer teams in Southern California.
The Cam High Cheer team competes in the Game Time Division of the United Spirit Association, or the USA. Within that division, there are 3 different 1minute15second routines that the cheerleaders perform for the judges. The routines, which are the fight song, timeout dance, and time out cheer, are judged based on four different criteria for each routine.
Each routine has its own set of criteria that the judges look for. The only similarities that the judges look for across the board are motions, which include the placement, synchronization, and execution of the routine, visual effect, which incorporates creative movement within groups and levels, formations, and spacing. Judges also judge the overall impression, which cites the audience appropriateness, energy, and crowd appeal. Basically, all of the things the cheerleaders are supposed to do during a game.
The beginning of a new season starts with a summer cheer camp at a college in Southern California, such as UCLA, UCSB, and UC Irvine. The team then stays there overnight for four or five days. They constantly drill to wear off the summer rust and prepare for the upcoming school year, while being personally trained by the USA staff. These camps are similar to the summer camps for professional football or spring training camps for professional baseball, only at the end of these 5 days, there is a legitimate competition that are a part of determining placing for Regionals.
“The judges watch your routine during the camps, and if they like what they see, they send you an invitation for Regionals. Once at Regionals, you have to beat out other schools to qualify for Nationals. We placed first at Regionals, so we were eligible to go to Nationals.” explains Junior Varsity co-captain Jazmin Lopez, sophomore.
These summer camps however, are not the end of the summer work program for the cheerleaders. Right after they get back from this camp, they start Hell Week. Each day consists of two practices at Cam High, going from 7am-11am, a break for lunch, and then it picks back up from 2pm-6pm. During the morning practice, the girls run, swim, and do basic cardio and strength exercises. The second half of the day consists of learning the cheers, chants, and dances that they perform at sporting events, rallies, and middle school recruitment days. “Hell Week is always tough, but we all worked as a team to get through the week so it made it an easier experience.” explained Varsity cheerleader Miranda McKee, junior. “Hell Week is very difficult, but it helps a lot with individual strength and team strength, both physically, and mentally in learning to work as one team, which is really important.” said Varsity cheerleader Aimee Edgell.
For the cheerleaders, variety is the spice of life, including their work schedule. “Practice time goes by hours. We practice two hours every day. One hour we will do cold stretching so we have higher jumps. Another will be working on a portion of our routine, it all just depends on what we need to work at.” explained Lopez.
And that is just their normal practice schedule. “For Nationals, we had to change up our routine so we would be noticed by the judges.” said Junior Varsity co-captain Ilene Gomez, sophomore. “The week before Nationals, we extended our practice to 3 hours a day.”
But in the end, all the hard work paid off for the cheerleaders. The team finished the year ranked 3rd in time out cheer, 2nd in the time out dance, and 1st in the fight song. “When the announcer said we won the fight song portion I was overcome with happiness!” said McKee. “It was honestly one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment I’ve ever felt!”
Championships are always bittersweet, however, because although is signifies a successful season, it also means it is the end of a successful season. “I love going to the school games, having fun with my teammates, especially during team sleepovers where we just stay up all night.” said Edgell. “I personally loved the rallies that we perform at during lunch. We got to make shirts and wear fun costumes. Plus, I got to have fun with my best friends.” said newcomer Clare De La Torre, freshman.
All of the cheerleaders enjoyed this championship season, but perhaps it was sweetest for Varsity captains Rachel Kling and Katie Jo Ash, both seniors. “I’m really proud of our team. It took a lot of time to work on our routine, and it felt really great to win,” said Ash. “I did not expect it at all because there were a bunch of other squads competing that are really good.” “I really want to thank my mom, Sandy Kling. She’s the team mom and helped with the whole thing and kept me sane,” said Kling.