Cheer team takes on conditioning exercises and focuses on new season with new coaches

September 30, 2022 — by Sunny Cao and Christopher Chen
The cheer team practices tumbling in a snaking pattern.
Coming out of COVID last year, the cheer team hopes to create a strong team bond and adjust to new coaches.

The cheer team’s roster has undergone several changes this year after the graduation of key participants such as Natalie Lockhart, Ashlyn O’Brien, and Sade Hashemi. As they get ready for competition season, they are emphasizing conditioning exercises with the addition of the two new assistant coaches, Alyssa Nicole, a former competitive cheerleader, and Alec Lockhart, the strength and conditioning coach, who are both helping the team overcome the difficulties of recent years.

“When COVID hit, cheer went downhill, and our performances weren’t as good as they used to be,” sophomore backspot Rylee Stanton said. “People were coming to practice late or were not showing up and just not caring — but since we had our new coaches come in, they’ve been helping a lot with conditioning and trying new stunts.”

Lockhart, who was in SHS Class of 2019, and returning coach Chelsea Miller are both alumni. Because of Lockhart’s military experience, he is capable of “keeping [the cheer team] in line” and “keeping everything organized,” Miller said.

Though practices are more difficult, Stanton feels the team’s performances during the first football game against Willow Glen and freshman orientation have shown improvement. 

“It makes me happy that this conditioning that we’re doing is helping us improve and it’s showing in our performances,” Stanton said.

Similarly, senior Darya Loenko, a backspot, is positive about the team’s potential this year — including their first competition slated for Nov. 12 — due to the increased practice schedule, higher intensity practices and learning the routine earlier. Practices, which occur on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays after school, include a mile run led by Lockhart and around an hour of conditioning before they start working on their routine.

However, for some team members, especially the seniors, the accelerated practices have proved difficult.

“I think we need to take it easy,” senior backspot Backhus said. “For me personally, it’s just a lot, and I think making sure to leave in time to actually do cheer and do the fun stuff will help prevent [burnout].”

Miller said the increased conditioning was in response to students expressing a hope for overall improvement in cheer at the end of the previous year.

“The best way to improve in cheer is by increasing your strength and increasing the amount of conditioning that you can do,” Miller said. “The stronger you are, the harder your stunts can be, the harder your tumbling can be.”

The team’s routine involves two dances, separated with a cheer in the middle and with stunts interspersed throughout. According to sophomore flier Lucie Le Toquin, the routine includes more difficult stunts and tumbling due to their strength and strong bases – which are ideal for stunts – in addition to having many tumblers on the team. 

Last year, the team was unable to compete at nationals due to COVID-19. In order to compete at nationals this year, the team is also focusing on fundraising efforts to raise money to compete at nationals, including a previous Panda Express fundraiser and a planned boba fundraiser.

“We definitely miss our seniors a lot, but our team I think is a lot more inclusive than other schools’ teams,” Alves said. “This year, I think we’re going to go a lot further because we have a lot more conditioning.”