Competition cheer team heads to nationals

Camille Kawawa-Beaudan

During February Break, Redwood’s competition cheerleading team will travel to Las Vegas to compete in the JAMZ School National Championship.

The competition cheer team has been around since P.E. teacher Heather Brabo began coaching about 10 years ago.

The competition cheer team practices their routine for the National Championships in Las Vegas.
The competition cheer team practices their routine for the National Championships in Las Vegas.

Regular cheerleading involves cheering on the sidelines at school sports events and creating impressive stunts for rallies, while the competition team focuses on developing the skills and techniques of all the team to make it more professional and dynamic, according to junior Jenna Hassell.

The competition team’s selection process is headed by Brabo, who hand-picks girls on the regular JV and varsity cheerleading teams, according to senior co-captain Ella Zarren. This year, there are 20 girls on the competition team.

“You are selected by [Brabo] if you show your skill and dedication. It’s a smaller group of girls that is really ready to put in the extra time commitment and the harder work,” Zarren said.

Cheerleading competitions are divided into two sections: a show section that focuses on the team’s ability to do jumps, stunts, and dance moves, and a performance section that focuses on cheering with stunts intertwined.

The team has gone to three competitions this year, all hosted by JAMZ, competing in both sections each time. They won first place every time except once, when they lost to last year’s national champions in the show routine.

The first two competitions the team competed in were Regionals. They qualified for State Championships by attaining a certain number of points. During the State Championships, they again won enough points to win a bid to go to Nationals.

Any school’s competition team can enter into the JAMZ competition, which is the biggest cheerleading competition in the country. According to the JAMZ website, a team only needs to attend one JAMZ competition or Six Flags Championships to be eligible to qualify for JAMZ Nationals.

Redwood’s JAMZ National Championships results have ranged from second place to ninth place in the past eight years. At this year’s State Championships, the team came in first in the performance cheer division and second in the Show Cheer division.

The second-place finish hasn’t shaken the team’s confidence, but Hassell is aware that Nationals will be harder to win than any of the previous competitions.

“Once you compete, you get a score sheet from your judges that tells you what scores you got on different aspects of your routine and how you can improve, so we take those into account,” Hassell said. “Each time we make things harder. We add more twists, more flips, and try to get as many points for the routine, stunts and cleanliness of the routine.”

Zarren added that the team has been focusing on strength work in order to be able to do more complicated tricks.

“We’re really focusing on our stunt difficulty and technique this year. We’ve really improved our technique and our skill with a lot of strength work and conditioning,” Zarren said.

Despite the team’s progress, there are certain limitations to their routines. According to Hassell, stunts difficulty levels have been put in place in order to ensure that the competition is fair to all competing teams.

Hassell and senior co-captain Carly Butler both believe that the team’s talents are not widely recognized at Redwood, since the student body never sees the team’s harder routines. According to Hassell, rallies allow the cheerleaders to do flashy stunts, whereas competitions require precise technique to move on to the next championship.

“The rally is more fun and to amp up for a game, but competition is more about showcasing talents and being judged on each aspect of a routine,” Hassell said. “For competition, you get judged on how dynamic your routine is, and for rallies it’s more about appealing to the student body and showcasing all of the fliers and what they can do.”

Hassell believes that the school’s minimal support for the team isn’t because no one cares, but rather that the competitions happen far from school.

“For most sports, it’s something that you can be involved in. You can go to basketball games this Friday night, or you could go to a water polo match or a wrestling match,” Hassell said. “But [with] cheerleading we can’t bring the Redwood student body to Vegas to cheer us on. I feel like the sport itself is less involving of our school.”