Music reverberated off the walls of the James Logan HS gym as team after team piled onto the blue mat in perfect formations. The MVHS cheer team stood huddled together in a tight circle as the previous team performed. Moments later they were running onto the floor, wide smiles across their faces as they waved to the crowd. This competition on December 2 was the MVHS cheer team’s first competition and song team’s third of the season.
Although much of what the student body sees of the MVHS cheer and song teams is confined to the football field or the gym, participating in rally festivities and football games is only a part of MVHS spirit. By the time the football team has hung up its gear after the final game of the season, the spirit team’s season is only just beginning.
The spirit team, which is comprised of both the cheer team and the song team, begins training for competition season in the summer by preparing the choreography for its first competition which is generally in September. Both the cheer and song team generally practice a single routine which is about three minutes long that they plan on performing at competitions, but they make modifications throughout the season based on the judge’s comments in order to improve their performance. Ultimately, their goal is to qualify for and perform well at USA Spirit Nationals, which takes place in February in Anaheim.
“I think that [it’s only] after nationals when we are excited to tell people that this is what we place or this is how we did,” senior and song team member Esha Desai said. “And that’s when [the impact of]competition season comes in, [and that’s when]we start talking about what we had to do to get there.”
This year the MVHS song team will participate in five competitions. Although they performed worse than they had hoped at their first competition this year, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Regional, they qualified for nationals at the second competition, California Great America Regional, despite some setbacks.
“We didn’t do as well as we expected at the first competition because this year … there’s been a lot of changes,” Desai said. “But at the second competition we did qualify, and we had a few disruptions — the music stopped while we were performing on stage, but we performed to the best of our abilities.”
The MVHS song and cheer teams often perform together at football games and have the same coach — Brittany Carey. However, they compete separately during competition season. Desai, who has been a member of both teams but now only participates in song, explains the difference.
“Cheer is the traditional stunting [and]tumbling, but song is dance with a cheer style, so we use pom poms which has more of a cheer essence to it, but we’re still doing jazz and hip hop,” Desai said.
Freshman Rebecca Chiang is a first year member of the cheer team and originally joined cheer as opposed to song because her mom was a cheerleader in high school. She appreciates the stunts that are more prevalent in cheer routines. Chiang explains that her first football game was extremely nerve-wracking, but over time she has settled down and become more comfortable. Part of that was due to the upperclassmen, who serve as role models and help the newer members like Chiang learn routines and techniques.
“I ask [the upperclassmen,]‘What can I do better?’ or ‘How did you learn this?’ and so it’s like a role model, but at the same time they’re like big sisters,” Chiang said.
As an upperclassmen and captain, senior Ellie Orvick explains that her role on the cheer team is to set a good example, hopefully help alleviate some tension before performances and overall make sure everyone feels confident.
“As the years have gone by I’ve obviously gotten more confident,” Orvick said. “I [have]become that person I was looking up to when I was a freshman.”
This year, however, the cheer team captains and coach decided that they would not be ready to compete at the first scheduled competition. According to senior captains Sarah Wood and Orvick, the team has definitely benefited from the additional time, which allowed the members to gain more confidence and calm their nerves.
“We had a lot of conflicts with scheduling and getting space in the gym to practice,” Wood said. “So we just felt like we’d rather go to our second competition ready and fully prepared than go to our first competition and have someone get hurt.”
Despite the fact that the team currently needs to work on its competition routine and cheer at basketball games simultaneously, Orvick explains that the process is no longer as time-consuming as it used to be. Both Orvick and Wood have noticed that practices and competitions get easier as the year progresses and the team gains experience.
“[By] the end of the year, our routine is very solid [and]everyone has a lot of skills,” Wood said. “And then as soon as the new team comes, it’s like we have a fresh start … so it takes two to three months to work everything out and be ready to perform.”
Both teams finished third in their divisions at their most recent competition on December 2 at James Logan HS. Cheer qualified for USA Spirit Nationals, which was the team’s primary goal. Song, having already qualified earlier, participated in the event primarily to gain experience, get feedback from the judges and perfect their routine.
“I think for this competition we definitely feel better than the past two competitions,” senior song captain Madi Anderson-Au said. “And we’re definitely growing closer and more connected as a team. We’re definitely on an upward trend.”
Since both teams have now qualified for their national competition, they hope to continue working on their routines to place as well as they can in February. According to Anderson-Au, this generally involves contacting the choreographer again shortly before the national competition to polish the choreography so they can put forth their best effort at the event. This marks the thirteenth year that the MVHS song and cheer teams have qualified for USA Spirit Nationals under Coach Brittany Carey, and last year, both teams finished in the top three. The team hopes to continue the trend this year at USA Spirit Nationals in Anaheim, Calif.
“I think just going onto the floor as a team and coming off as a team, that’s the most important thing and going out there and having fun,” Orvick said. “So no matter how we did ranking wise, I would be proud of this team no matter what.”