The South Tahoe High School varsity cheer squad and dance team hit the football field for the summer’s first conditiong and stunting practice on Monday.
With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees and the black rubber pellets of astroturf slowing burning holes through 19 pairs of tennis shoes, most of the squad showed up even though mandatory practices don’t start until Aug. 8. For a group that set the bar high last year, the pre-season conditioning is crucial.
“This year it’s just going to be fun. I know that they want to go to competitions, we qualified for Nationals last year and I know that that’s probably on their mind this year. Are you guys competitive?” Varsity Spirit Coach Lia Story asked the team of students sitting in front of her.
The answer: a resounding yes.
Last year, the squad saw five girls qualify for the All-American Team, two of whom went on to perform in the London New Year’s Day parade. Story, who has coached the high school team since 2008, has never had a student qualify for All-American, even though five to six usually audition.
“It is a really, really big deal,” Story said.
On Monday, Heather Dominguez led the group through stretches after a series of sprints, lunges and 100 diabolical “cheer jacks.” Dominguez, who will be a senior this year, was one of the two students who went to London in December.
“It was amazing,” Dominguez said. “I’ve always wanted to go to another country.”
Dominguez and junior Cecilia Correa brought in the New Year along with more than 500 cheerleaders from the U.S. in downtown London. The two young women are in the top 12 percent of American cheerleaders, according to a Universal Cheerleaders Association press release. With the fall approaching, Dominguez says she’s excited for the next season.
Since cheerleading isn’t recognized as a sport by the Nevada Interscholastic Athletic Association, the team fundraises to pay for competitions, which can cost up to $3,000. Car washes, a middle school summer dance and a taco night are all slated for the upcoming months. Even with the limited funding, the Viking Spirit program, that includes the dance team and both varsity and JV cheer squads, is the largest girls program on campus, Story said. And the team tries to stay involved with the South Lake Tahoe community.
“We try and be the face of South Tahoe High School,” she said. “We’ve gone to Rotary meetings, just showed up in our uniforms with pom-poms.”