Cheer squad heads into competition season with eyes on top prize

Sean C. Morgan

Despite a reduction in available personnel this season, Coach Amber Rosa expects her team to be in the hunt for its second straight state 4A championship trophy in competitive high school cheerleading next month.

The team begins its competition season Saturday, Jan. 15, at South Albany.

The Huskies return 10 cheerleaders this season, including seniors Erin Bauer, Shania Baxter, Jackie Cheshire, Ilima Ka’auwai-Walker and Ivy Weidner.

“All of the seniors have been with me since they were freshmen, except Jackie (in her second year with the team),” Rosa said. “They’re all contributing factors.”

Returning juniors are Ashley Bailey, Hannah Graham and Jade Smith. Graham and Bailey are in their third year, and Smith is in her second.

Sophomores are Nicole Grady and Hailey Wolfe. Both are in their second year.

Joining the team as freshmen from the junior high team are Shelby Goodwin, Pippi Somatis, McKenzie Wolfe and Courtnie Woodard. Freshman Hailey Miller is new to the program.

Alternates include veteran cheerleaders Britney Zook, a junior; Jessilynn Thomas, a junior; and Shayla Hunsaker, a sophomore.

The team started the season with 26 cheerleaders, Rosa said, but for various reasons, a number of girls were unable to continue.

Ka’auwai-Walker and Bauer are team captains.

Rosa said that Bailey and Goodwin “bring a lot of tumbling to the team” and help the Huskies meet qualifying tumbling requirements.

With the departure of so many girls this season, “Erin Bauer is stepping up to be a flier this year, which she hasn’t done before,” Rosa said. Hailey Wolfe also has had to step into the flier role. Fliers, often smaller team members, are elevated by teammates into the air during high stunts, in which they are at the top.

“Everybody’s contributing in a pretty big way,” Rosa said. They’re changing and adjusting “really as good as is expected. We had to change the entire routine, but it’s going well, better than I thought it would.”

Rosa hasn’t had to diminish the difficulties in this year’s routine, she said. “There’s a lot of experience on the team, so they adjust pretty well.”

The Huskies are looking for their second-straight championship trophy, and they’re upping their game to get it.

Their routine has “quite a bit of difficulty,” Rosa said, and some new parts. It has more inversions, in which the hips go over a cheerleader’s head. This year, they’re spinning up into stunts on one foot instead of two.

The team will stretch out the holiday season a little longer this year with its 2017 theme, “Christmas,” something choreographer Suzi Stavas has been bugging her to do since she saw it at a national competition a couple of years ago, Rosa said.

Rosa loves Christmas too, so she’s looking forward to it.

“We knew it would need to be a year we could carry it out,” she said, adding that this team can do it.

The girls will wear bows, socks and leggings with Santa hats on them. The routine is set to Christmas music, and the cheer is a takeoff of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

“We really have the potential to get there,” Rosa said, but the Huskies will face some good competition along the way. Last year’s second-place team, Gladstone, is hungry and is going to be taking another shot at the top trophy.

Klamath Union has been a championship team in the past, and Henley is up-and-coming, Rosa said. South Umpqua is always good.

Small and large 4A teams remain combined this year, with 15 or 16 teams competing, Rosa said. Five teams will place.

“It’s a really fun routine,” Rosa said. “Come watch.”

The closest performance will be in The Rebel Rumble at South Albany Saturday. The girls also will perform it at halftime during the boys basketball game on Feb. 14.

The team will continue its competition season at Lake Oswego on Jan. 16, Newberg on Jan. 21 and the Oregon elites competition at the Salem Fairgrounds on Feb. 4. The state competition is Feb. 11 at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

“It’s a good group of kids,” Rosa said. “They’ve been around a long time. We know them well, we love them, and we’re just pulling for them.”