INDEPENDENCE — Central High School cheerleaders took first place at a game day competition in Portland in September. Now they’re working their way to the United Spirit Nationals competition, which is in Anaheim, Calif. in February.
“We went to our first competition in a decade,” said Megan Smith, cheer coach. “When I took over the program eight years ago, there was no program.”
Smith is on CHS’s paid staff to coach for fall, and has been volunteering her time for winter cheer, as there is no paid position for that season.
“I told my team this year if they worked really hard I would volunteer my time and take them to do competitions,” Smith said.
And she has been, but with some challenges.
“Central has no place for us to practice,” she said. The facilities are in use by other high school teams, basketball and wrestling.
“We had no where to go,” Smith said.
They use the upper gymnasium at Talmadge Middle School, she said.
“Usually competition teams are working four or five nights a week,” Smith said.
To qualify for the event in Anaheim, the team had to submit a video tryout.
Smith’s church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Monmouth, let the girls use their gym on Dec. 12 to film.
Senior Katie Cupp said winning the competition in September was emotional.
“We all started crying,” Cupp said. “We’ve been working really hard and putting a lot of time and effort, even with crazy schedules.”
She said just about everyone in cheer is involved in other activities, including dance, multi-cultural leadership class, choir and band.
If CHS cheer is accepted to compete in Anaheim, it would mean “everything” to Cupp.
“We all poured so much into this,” she said. “Just having that recognition would be everything.”
Smith said cheer is a lot more athletic than it used to be.
“It’s more about stunting and dance than it is about cheering,” Smith said “It takes a lot of technique and a lot of athleticism.”
That athleticism is why junior Drew Flores joined cheer.
“I’ve done gymnastics competitions,” Flores said. “I decided to do cheer because it is the closest thing to gymnastics, (with the) routines and tumbling.”
The girls on the team are unique, Smith said.
“I’ve never had a team like I have this year,” she said. “Part of the reason why is because of how close they are. There’s no drama. It’s like a miracle, and part of the reason is because of the competition. They have a goal. They are working so tirelessly that they don’t have time to be dramatic.”
Smith said it is hard to qualify for the national competition.
“I’m never a part-time coach,” she said.
Even without a dedicated place to practice, they try to get in as much as they can, when they can.
They even recently went to a stunting clinic that ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday.
CHS cheer pays 100 percent of its costs, Smith said.
The cost to get the team — 20 girls — to Anaheim is between $800 and $1,000 per girl, she said.
The team will know if they’ve made the cut in a couple of weeks, Smith said.
But they’re not wasting time to raise money for the trip. They’ve already done some fundraisers and worked concessions for fall sports. They plan to do a rummage sale in the near future.
“We’re trying to reduce costs as much as we can,” Smith said.
Since they are self-funded, any money they raise will go toward their team, even if they don’t make to Anaheim this time.