This season’s cheerleading squad holds a new set of talented girls and is back with as much spirit as ever. The team includes senior and four year veteran Kendyl Morris, homeschool senior Claire Robertson; juniors Elissa Turner, Lucia Lombardia, Fatima Roca Suarez, Jazmaine DeHeus; and freshman Angel Purigay. These girls enjoy supporting their basketball players and getting the crowd involved. They endure intense workouts and dedicate their after school hours to practicing for upcoming competitions, as well as continuing to improve their sideline and stunting skills.
Some may not consider cheerleading a real sport, but those who have participated know the dedication and industrious attitude it requires. Through dangerous stunts, common injuries, and difficult-to-achieve skills, such as proper jump technique and correctly executing the use of their voices, Seward High School’s group of brilliant young ladies have successfully demonstrated the sport of cheerleading in a positive light. This is something they would not be able to achieve without the guidance of their coaches. Continuing her second year as head coach, former SHS student Haley Hatch is leading the girls successfully through games and competitions. She is aided by two assistant coaches: Katrina Blair and Rebekah Ivy. The three women bring lots of coaching experience and were each cheerleaders themselves in high school. In Rebekah’s opinion, the most challenging aspect of coaching this year is the fact that, “…we only have two returners, so it is almost like starting from scratch. But thankfully, we have some determined cheerleaders, and we are looking forward to our competition next week.” I applaud these amazing coaches for sticking to the sport, even through obstacles like this. To understand why they are so dedicated, I asked Rebekah what motivates her to continue coaching, to which she replied, “The love of the sport and, more importantly, the relationships and bonds that are formed with the girls.” This is a great, honest answer that shows that the girls have some amazing coaches to look up to.
Among the eight girls are two foreign exchange students: Fatima Roca Suarez from Bolivia and Lucia Lombardia from Spain. These girls have come a long way and have decided to try something new during their stay in Alaska. Lucia is a long-time gymnastics enthusiast, which, she says, is why she joined cheerleading. Cheerleading is something that does not exist in her country. In Lucia’s opinion, teamwork is the most important skill she has improved upon because, “We could drop the flyer and stunting is dangerous.” Her statement is completely true in terms of stunting, as injuries occur often and are sometimes serious. Teamwork is required to keep injury rates as low as possible. I asked Lucia what she thought was the most significant difference between American sports and sports in Europe. She reflected, “Here in the U.S., the sports are before academics, and in my country, it’s first academics and then sports. If you have to study for an exam, you don’t have time for sports. We don’t have cheerleading because it’s an American thing.” Considering this, I realized that compared to other countries, American high schools heavily participate in sports; so much so, that it is often what defines a stellar student. Lastly, I asked Lucia about her preference between gymnastics and cheerleading as a foreign sport. Lucia says, “I prefer gymnastics because I have done it since I was a kid and I enjoy it a lot. Also, it’s like a challenge because I’ve always tried to do my best and improve, and doing different skills is more difficult.”
With their first competition coming up, excitement is in the air. For some, this is their first time competing: for example, Fatima. She is excited for the dance portion, as it is her favorite part about cheerleading. Every year, the team works on two main dances; one is for the Elks Basketball Tournament and cheerleading competition in Valdez, and the other is for the state competition at the end of the season. Fatima thinks that the most important skill to perfect in cheerleading is doing the movements and saying the words correctly. The team works very hard to keep their movements sharp and smooth, as well as remain in sync with the music. Last year, the girls earned first place in Valdez, bringing home a plaque to show off their perseverance and dedication. Hopefully this year, they will return with a second plaque.
Overall, the Seward High School cheerleading squad is off to a great start for the 2017-2018 school year. The new girls have adapted very well and have proven to be fast learners. The team hypes up the crowd and brings entertainment when the game gets slow. Let’s wish them luck at the Elk’s Tournament, and later state!