SRHS Cheer Rises to the Top


Izzy Allen, Contributor

Cheerleaders dance and shake pom poms on the sidelines for games, chanting to get the crowd hyped. But do the crowds at games know what happens behind the scenes or at cheerleading competitions? 

Here at SRHS our cheer competition team has been led by Shawna Hoch for the past 12 years. They have won 4 national championships, 3 of those championships in the past 4 years. They took the titles in 2017, 2018, and 2020. As well as our jv cheer team won nationals for the first time ever this year. But, all their hard work is easily overlooked.

Cheer practices every Monday-Thursday for 2-2 ½ hours and Saturday mornings for an hour. These practices all work towards their final competition in February at nationals but, different things like football and basketball games or other competitions can interfere with their practices schedule as well. When it gets closer to nationals they practice every day of the week.

In the week before nationals they do all their routines full-out, which means everything from start to finish over and over. That includes all their stunts, tumbling, jumps, and cheering, “It can be very exhausting,” said senior and captain Izzy See. 

Being national champions the expectations become higher. Yes, their routines need to be cleaner and better than the year before, but their attitude is an important part as well. “Shawna is very strict about keeping a humble representation because once you start winning, people start to pay attention,” said Izzy. 

There are local competitions for teams who are not always successful, there are the USA competitions with intermediate and advanced teams, our SR cheer team being one of them. Then there’s UCA with only advanced teams. UCA competitions take place in Florida and can be watched on live television. “That is something we’re hoping to do next season because that is where our trajectory is heading for our coed team,” says Shawna.

In cheerleading coaches choose which level of difficulty they believe their team is at for competitions, the three levels are novice, intermediate, and advance. This year our coed competition team was at the advanced level and the jv team was in novice. “We’re the first program north of the golden gate bridge that has competed in the advanced division at nationals which is really exciting,” said Shawna. 

Most of our cheerleaders with exceptions of a few, have no experience with cheerleading or gymnastics. So they have to teach all the skills from the beginning the need to be successful without some resources that other cheer teams get. “I’m really proud of that and I think our school doesn’t get enough recognition for our successes,” Shawna said.

During a competition you only have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to impress the judges. Teams are judged on stunt technique, showmanship, execution of dance, jump technique, and tumbling technique (only if you’re a tumbling team). The judges pick apart the whole routine, give a final score out of 100 and leave comments to see how you can improve for the next competitions they attend. 

This year at the first competition our coed comp team attended they scored a 99 out of 100 which is very unheard of. To get more experience on the floor they compete locally at 4 or 5 competitions before nationals and to get more feedback from the judges. 

“It’s one of the best feelings to see your teammates so happy and proud of what they just did on the floor, leaving it all there and seeing all our hard work pay off from practice,” said senior and team captain Benji DeLeon.

Shawna is really focused on creating bonds between all the members of the team. Having important bonds help them perform as one and  have a cleaner, more crisp performance. To do this, they have many traditions to help them out before every competition, especially for nationals. 

Each team member draws a name and has to write another member a letter of encouragement for the competition. This can help them feel confident and feel like they have the support they need in order to perform to their best ability. 

“The best thing about cheer is I get to be a part of a family. I am who I am today because of all the amazing friends I make,” said senior Hailey DeOchoa.

They also all lay down in two circles, inner circle having every senior in it and the outer circle has the rest of the team. They all hold hands and listen to the song Climb by Miley Cyrus to represent them bonding together as one.

As well, before every cheer they do, no matter if it’s a game or a competition or even a full-out practice, they do a chat that has been going on for years. It’s called Day by Day and is a prayer to the “Cheer Gods.”   

Shawna even has some of her own traditions, one of them is that everytime she goes to nationals she eats with a few other coaches at the same Baja Fresh in the cafeteria and eats exactly 3 tortilla chips with the queso dip. This year she brought the jv coach in on her tradition as well. 

As a team, they were very focused on becoming a family and bringing each member closer to another. “This year especially the way the kids truly loved each other was taken to a whole new level,” said Shawna. “Sometimes people made mistakes and no one would blame each other which you never really see, they really just grew together and became a family.”  

Overall, cheer at SRHS has become a winning sport, teaching people who don’t know anything about cheer to becoming national champions at a harder level each year. The cheer team has many opportunities ahead for them and more national titles to win. Cheer is a performance sport, so it’s supposed to look easy and perfect so people assume that it is, but in reality our cheer works so hard and lays it all out on the floor until they can’t any more.