CHEER: Mission Oak takes first place at Nationals

The Mission Oak cheer team proves they’re the most spirited taking first place in the Crowdleader division at Nationals in Anaheim

ANAHEIM – After being incorrectly awarded second at Nationals, the Mission Oak cheer team found out they actually placed first in the Crowdleader division.

The Mission Oak Hawks cheerleaders competed in two divisions at the nationals competition in Anaheim, CA from Feb. 24 to Feb. 26. They competed in varsity advanced non-tumbling, which showed off their basic cheerleading skills, and the Crowdleader division, which showcased the team’s ability to hype up a crowd at a sporting event such as a football game. It was their performance in the Crowdleader division that earned them first place. However, due to a tabulation error, they were awarded second at the competition and only found out later that they actually took first place.

“Everyone on the team was a leader this year,” Mission Oak cheer advisor Randall Taylor said. “I felt like the whole competition team was hardworking. They were driven and they knew what they wanted.”

The Hawks were originally awarded second place at the end of the competition, but found out later there had been a tabulation error with the scoring. The cheer competition consisted of two days and the Hawks had to perform their routine on both days. The scores would then be combined in order to determine the winner. However, the judges did not include the scores from the first day, and on the second day scores alone, the Hawks were in second. Taylor was contacted by the United Cheerleading Association after the competition and informed that the Hawks had actually taken first in the Crowdleader division.

The Crowdleader division consists of three elements: a band chant, a situational cheer and a fight song routine. The Hawks cheer team began their four-minute Crowdleader routine with a dance performance to a song the band would play at a football game. The band and cheerleaders often work together to hype up a crowd, but the cheerleaders have to have memorized routines to all of the songs the band plays and aren’t told by the band before they start a song which song it will be.

Next came the situational cheer, a more difficult improvisational portion of the Crowdleader division. Once they finished their band chant, the cheerleaders were given a hypothetical game situation and had to quickly decide on an appropriate cheer for the moment. For the competition, the Hawks were given an offensive situation in a football game. The cheerleaders only had a few moments to huddle together or communicate the cheer before they had to perform because they only had four minutes to accomplish all three parts.

Finally, they performed a dance to the Mission Oak fight song. It wasn’t the dance that spectators saw the Hawks performing at football games this year. They brought in a choreographer to help create a brand new routine to the fight song that would maximize points in competitions.

“The team practiced five days a week, two and a half hours a day,” Taylor said. “We qualified for nationals back in November then we did three or four more competitions just to prepare.”

The Hawks had to score high enough at a regional competition in order to qualify for the national competition in February. Then at nationals they have to perform the same fight song dance routine that they performed at regionals with no changes, so they practiced until they reached perfection.

“Our season is pretty much year round, we don’t really stop,” Taylor said. “It’s probably one of the longest sports seasons in high school.”

This was the first time since 2019 that the nationals competition has not had Covid restrictions, so despite going to nationals last year, this was the first year many of the Hawks had experienced the intensity of a national cheerleading competition. Only seniors Dakota Aguiar and Madisyn Hightower knew how intense it would be because they went to nationals when they were freshmen, before Covid.

The Hawks had athletes on their team who had never competed in cheerleading and some had never been a cheerleader at all before this year. They relied on the experience of Taylor, Aguiar and Hightower to help prepare them for an intense competition season, but nationals is different from smaller regional competitions. Nationals had hundreds of teams competing from all over the country.

“There’s no way of preparing someone for nationals until they experience it for themselves,” Taylor said. “It’s a whole different breed. It’s like you would see on TV.”

The Hawks will finally get a small break after a long season, but are already preparing for the 2023-24 season. They’re holding tryouts for next season beginning on April 11.

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