Top of the Pyramid

Cheer Places First in National Cheer Association Nationals Competition, Talks About Accomplishments


Photo Courtesy of Sarah Johnson

Holding their timberwolve signs high, captains and seniors Julia Childress, Jani Jung and Kristine Kim sing along to the school song celebrating a victory at this year’s homecoming football game. According to Kim, when they aren’t on the sidelines cheering on the players, the captains are working hard with their team to perfect their routines for competition season. “There’s always pressure on myself and my other captains Jani and Julia,” Kim said. “Coming back from a season of success into this new one, we want to defend our national title. As a leader and representative of the team I just want the girls to feel the feeling of working hard and receiving positive results from our work.”

Isa Morgan, Reporter

Virtual school, lockdowns and cancellations of important events led to major setbacks at the height of the worldwide pandemic, yet through it all, the cheer team secured a podium spot. It was their first time competing at the NCA National Competition, and instead of participating in-person, the team competed with a video recording, which won them first place.

Back in February of the ’20 to ’21 school year, the cheerleading team submitted a video of their routine to virtually compete in the NCA National competition. Only recently did they receive the news of placing first in the competition over a zoom conference call. This was the first year varsity cheer participated in Nationals, to compete in the competition the team had a videographer come and record their routine to be submitted and judged along with videos from other teams who had placed high in their regional competition. The team held daily practices to ensure they would do well in the competition.

“It was our first time ever competing at Nationals, so we really didn’t know what to expect,” varsity cheer captain and senior Kristine Kim said. “We went into it blindly without expectations of doing as well as we did. I remember being on Zoom with the entire team watching the live results and seeing everyone’s faces light up when they announced us as the first place winners. It was honestly such an unforgettable moment to see positive results from months of practice. I’ll never forget it.”

The team has previously been successful in their UIL and regional competitions so cheer captains had no doubt they would prevail in nationals. After winning state championships in 2018 and 2019 the team competed in the UCA Nationals in Orlando, Florida in 2020, where they placed 8th. In early 2021 the team was looking for a challenge and decided to compete in the NCA National Competition.

“Our team historically has done well at UIL state competitions and we were looking for a challenge,” Kim said “We wanted to expand our experience so we decided to compete. It’s honestly been such a humbling experience competing against a lot of other really talented teams. but there’s a lot of talent here at Cedar Park and the girls work so hard.”

Last year, Nationals were held virtually due to the height of the pandemic. The team filmed several videos of their complete routine, including performing the fight song which was the most tiring part according to members and chose one to send to the judges. The team submitted their video in February and heard back in March.

“We did have to do it virtual which was actually quite easier,” varsity cheerleader and junior Hanna Rae said. “Because we could have as many tries as we wanted to, which is obviously not an [option] at a normal competition where you just do it one time and you’re done, we had a few tries to get the exact routine that we wanted to send in and have scored so that we could send in our best routine.”

Even having the chance to re-record their submissions, the team still had a packed practice, according to varsity cheer captain and senior Julia Childress. In order to achieve such high placements, the team had daily practices and focused on building stamina and fixing specific sections of the routine.

“We practice from 2:30-4 five days a week and stay after school until 4 on early release days,” Childress said. “We begin by warming up with jumping jacks, jumps, and standing tumbling and then move to our routine. During practice, we alternate between doing full-outs to build our stamina and working on sections of the routine to make it cleaner.”

Cheer plans to compete again in the NCA Nationals this year, this new responsibility of defending their National champion title comes with pressures for both the girls and the captains, according to Kim.

“There’s always pressure on myself and my other captains Jani and Julia,” Kim said. “ Coming back from a season of success into this new one, we want to defend our National title. As a leader and representative of the team, I just want the girls to feel the feeling of working hard and receiving positive results from our work. I’m sure the younger girls feel more pressured to do as well as last year’s team, but I’m really proud of them, and we just came back with a first-place title at the regional [competition].”

This year, Nationals will take place in January and will be held in person in Dallas. According to Childress, the team is very excited to be able to attend the competition in person for the first time.

“Because new teams come to the competition every year and we have never been to this competition in person before it is hard to know exactly what teams we will be competing against and their skill level,” Childress said. “But I am confident that our team has a good chance of placing high again this year.”

In addition to focusing on Nationals, the team also competed in their regional competition. According to Kim, having a high placement in Regionals qualifies the team for Nationals, which is the team’s goal. They managed to place first in their division and had the highest score overall at the competition, allowing them to move on to this year’s National competition.

“[Regionals] was a great opportunity to give the new girls a taste of what competing feels like to prepare for state and Nationals,” Kim said. “We placed first in our division, which might I add is one of the most difficult divisions to compete in within the cheer world, and we received the highest score of the whole competition. It was a confidence booster and motivates us to continue to work hard to improve in any way we can.”

With State coming up in late January, the team has been practicing hard in order to do as well as they did in past competitions, according to Kim. Even with fewer returning upperclassmen and girls new to competition, Kim said she is still confident in the team’s hard work.

“We’ve been practicing every day,” Kim said. “We condition and we’ve been trying to get into the weight room. The new team consists of a lot of underclassmen since we had 19 seniors leave last year with only nine returning current seniors. so a lot of these girls have never competed or done anything like this so it’s definitely been a challenge to teach them everything and it’s probably overwhelming for them too for us to be throwing a lot of pressure on them but the girls work hard and I believe in their ability.”

According to Kim, seniors and captains agree with the need to defend the new title of National Champion. With this being many of the girl’s last years in cheer they want to make sure that they leave behind a lasting impact on the team with this Nationals win and motivation to continue the streak.

“As a senior, I want to leave the younger girls with more than less,” Kim said. “They have a lot of potential and are the sweetest group of girls I’ve ever met. I hope that they’ll continue to push themselves and continue to work hard and not only grow as cheerleaders but as members of our community.”